Stripped of his one-time backup band, The Commotions, Lloyd Cole enjoyed a new sense of freedom on his self-titled solo LP 2 years ago. From an artistic point of view, Lloyd Cole was an album with staying power; it never wore out its welcome on the stereo, and it drew the listener closer with each play.

Cole’s newest release, Don’t Get Weird on Me, Babe is even better, a breathtaking record full of inspired writing, smooth melodies and eloquent instrumentation. It’s anything but weird; it’s wonderful.

Don’t Get Weird on Me, Babe is split into two halves, a set of edgy rock tracks, and a thematic collection of orchestrated songs that recount the loss of an intimate relationship. Each song is worthy of a paragraph, perhaps even an essay, and the LP, as a whole, is a masterpiece.

Although the conceptual side begins the LP in the rest of the world (where Cole is better known), the orchestrated material is relegated to second billing behind Cole’s more mainstream material in the States, where record execs feared such concepts would alienate short attention spans.

On side one, a determined back beat fuels To the Lions in which Cole encounters a “mean bartender,” opting for alcohol over religion at a time of tragedy. Guitarist Robert Quine contrasts Cole’s calm vocal delivery with disjunct blues leads, adding sandpaper to satin, as well as a second dimension to Cole’s writing.

The songs continue to flow. “Did ya ever dream baby, one day you might fall?” sings Cole over a sketchy Hammond organ in Pay for It, while the subtle interplay between drummer Fred Maher and bassist Matthew Sweet pours underneath. The relaxed persistence of The One You Never Had sets the CD’s tone for She’s a Girl and He’s a Man, the record’s first single and most accessible track. A catchy bass riff layers underneath its simple chord signature, and the song takes flight on the power of Cole’s relentless lyrical persuasion.

On the conceptual half, There for Her folds Paul Buckmaster’s orchestra around the acoustic guitar, piano and wispy harmonica of Cole’s studio players. “Summer comes around and I miss that woman more,” sings Cole, as easily as speaking. “When the rain comes, I just let it pour all over me.” With its tapping ride cymbal and Blair Cowan’s graceful organ, Margo’s Waltz could easily be the soundtrack theme to a 20-year-old foreign film that was never released, as Cole whispers amid the musical space, breathing unspoken images into the soft, cinematic music.

But What He Doesn’t Know, the final track on the LP, is a conclusion of soul-crushing self-awareness. As the CD winds down, Cole finally admits in hushed tones, “You know just as well as I, he’s a better man than I.”

Off the span of the LP, of course, that’s simply not true.

If Lloyd Cole has any peers in the music business, I want their records, too.

Publication: St. Petersburg Times (Florida)

Publication date: 22/11/91