Twenty years after “Rattlesnakes” slithered onto college radio and caused a commotion with the overcoat set, Lloyd Cole unveils a hushed, soothing album on par with his last great release, 1995’s “Love Story.” With “Music in a Foreign Language,” Cole finally seems comfortable in his skin as a second-tier, but by no means second rate singer/songwriter.

Recorded on a Macintosh computer in his New England hideaway, “Foreign Language” is sophisticated in presentation, with Cole matching his wry, inventive lyrics with glistening guitar strums and unique piano accents. The disc is chock full of the things fans have come to love, like his descriptions of “Spectravision girls” and his purposeful mispronunciation of “Los Angeles” in the sad calm of “Late Night/Early Town.”

Upholding the position that less is more, Cole makes each of these 10 songs as strong as the next, from the delicately crooned, lullaby-like title track to the inventive set-bowing “Brazil.” The latter, an escapist, Bacharach-ish ode replete with bah-bah-bah’s and xylophone touches, finds the Cole’s delivery right on the mark. If he passes off a skillful cover of Nick Cave’s “People Ain’t No Good” as his own, it’s because the song ‘s presentation lends cohesion to the original material that surrounds it, be it the slide guitar-trickled “My Alibi” or the gorgeously blue “Today I’m Not So Sure.”

By the tone of his songs, Cole has struggled into his 40s, but the heartfelt, high quality of this album is an affirmation that one man’s pain is another man’s pleasure.

–John D. Luerssen


Publication date: 20/04/04