An unbroken record of essential albums continues
Cole has spent the last decade in self-imposed exile; touring as a solo act, and occasionally crafting sparsely masterful, homemade digi-folk albums utilising largely just an acoustic, a laptop and Cubase for company (see 2003s superb Music in a Foreign Language and 2007s equally impressive Antidepressant). However, whilst still largely acoustic, the urge has arisen to get back in the ring, assemble a band and record an album of more urgent pop material straight to tape rather than hard drive. Essentially, this is the complete opposite of his chosen path of the last few years, and its delivered with urgency, as if he needs to purge this music from his system. For this project he has called on former co-conspirators like drummer Fred Maher (Lou Reed, Matthew Sweet) and ex-Commotions keyboardist Blair Cowan, along With Joan (As Policewoman) Wasser and her bassist Rainy Orteca, augmented by pedal steel player Bob Hoffnar to create a tight, complimentary, and distinctly rootsy-sounding band for these songs.
Despite some of the press the album has already garnered, It would be quite incorrect to describe Broken Record as Lloyd Cole going country, for ever since he first committed his intriguing, literate musings to vinyl back in the mid-80s there has always been a rich and blatant vein of country song writing aesthetics, and whiskey-hued heart abuse central to his oeuvre. In fact this setting is incredibly natural for him, as mandolins and steel guitar glide around these rambunctiously driving rhythms and razor sharp observational songs.
Why In The World has definite traces of Dylan in its melody, and many of the songs here have a sparkling, country-rocking propulsive drive (Thats Alright, Writers Retreat, Westchester County Jail), while Oh Genevieve and Man Overboard are infused with accordion, and some folk flavours that are more Gaelic in persuasion.
If I Were a Song and Double Happiness may pass without much amazement, but despite the glut of fantastic, richly melodic tunes, with Cole its really all about the lyrics, and the seductive rich baritone they are delivered in. His trademark sly cynicism, and deft way with a self-deprecating, highly literate aside are still very much present, powerful and correct. The album opens with the title tracks hopelessly resigned not that I had much dignity left anyway..yesterdays lover with fall for another and I wont stand in her way... While Westchester County Jail insists that I look like a million bucks, sure I aint worth quite that much, but you get the point… while playful steel guitar rides all over the song. Elsewhere, the mischievous country of Rhinestones I say X and you say Y when you know Im not a mathematical guy…I wasnt looking for trouble, its just a lazy eye cant help but raise a smile.
The mandolins and infectious bouncing rhythm of Writers Retreat has a distinct lineage to the material that eventually came out on the Etc. Album (which itself was made up of teases from a couple of alt-country albums his record label in the mid-90s had no faith in and wouldnt release), including an amusing Maggie Mae steal.
As if further evidence were required, on Broken Record Cole further cements his reputation as a fantastically subversive pop songwriter. He is never staid, static or dull enough to be in line as a national treasure, but he is truly one of Englands finest and consistently brilliant, not to mention criminally under appreciated songwriters.
Cole has expressed with some certainty that he wont ever make a record like this again, but then also states that theres no way he is returning to his little room with just the computer for company. Whatever his next move may eventually be is then somewhat mysterious, but one feels that while he still has albums as consistently strong as Broken Record easily within his ability, its certain that it will be worth the wait.
Publication: Americana UK
Publication date: 03/10/10