Lloyd Cole is a self-portrait painted in music and textured in timbres. This is Cole’s first album without his backup band, the Commotions, but its absence only allows Cole more room.

He amplifies his talent to turn a phrase and compose engaging melodies. Whereas previous work was more an organic fusion of Cole and his band, this album underscores Cole’s keener lyrical and vocal abilities.

Cole uses his austere yet seductive voice to create mental pictures. His songs are vivid vignettes and scenarios. The opening track, Don’t Look Back, builds suspense by bringing the listener to the tipping point.

Love is Cole’s pet theme. He analyzes relationships, dipping the music into melancholy, but somehow managing to intertwine ironic lyrics to accomplish an optimistic lilt. This paradoxical style is best heard in No Blue Skies.

Cole further explores melody in Loveless and Sweetheart. The single, Downtown, with its spirited melody and clever phrases, is representative of both the album and Cole’s style in general. But the gem is A Long Way Down, a poignant welling and subsiding of emotions.

The songs are closely related enough to make Lloyd Cole a cohesive whole. Cole’s shades are gray, but translucent enough to show musical light, and enjoyable enough to show he is a viable solo artist.

Publication: St. Petersburg Times (Florida)

Publication date: 06/07/90