October 6, 2006
Middle age – not Scarlett Johansson – is the biggest challenge for ’80s icon Lloyd Cole. By Michael Dwyer.
LLOYD COLE’S wife is no fan. She doesn’t like acoustic guitars with drums and after 17 years and two kids, she thinks he should stop writing “wandering eye” songs, even if he insists he’s “no longer driven to distraction/not even by Scarlett Johansson”.
That line, from Woman In a Bar, encapsulates the wry, middle-aged ennui of his new album, Antidepressant. It’s a long sigh removed from the Commotions, the ’80s pop sensation that Cole was just disbanding when he met his wife at the end of that decade.
Here, the twentysomething zeal of Perfect Skin, Brand New Friend and Lost Weekend is obscured by the elegant, over-40 scepticism of The Young Idealists, How Wrong Can You Be?, I Am Not Willing, and even an ambivalent death wish, Slip Away.
“All grown-up people have to deal with depression, all married people have to deal with marital difficulties,” he says in a curious accent that melds his Derbyshire roots and his adopted home of New York.
“Getting through, dealing with middle age and finding ways to make your life rich and beautiful becomes the challenge.
“To not become a cynic or a curmudgeon, that’s the great challenge at the time of life I’m at right now. That’s probably what I’m trying to do with these songs – to meet those difficulties and overcome them.”
The song therapy seems to be working. Antidepressant is less misanthropic than Cole’s last album, Music in a Foreign Language.
“What pale fire I ever had is gone/but you don’t wanna hear that in a song,” the title track acknowledged.
He even borrowed one of Nick Cave’s most bitter tunes, People Ain’t No Good, as if to throw any last, sentimental radio programmers off his scent.
He admits he still reads the youth-fixated rock press but rarely finds value in its recommendations.
“I don’t have the will to digest a lot of novelty any more,” he says. “I went out and actively listened to an Arcade Fire song and I didn’t like it. How can you be a 45-year-old man excited by the Arctic Monkeys? I think it’s great that there’s a band out there that sounds a bit like The Fall selling gazillions of records but I don’t need to listen to it.”
Antidepressant is only Cole’s third album in a decade. He feels there’s “perhaps more dignity” in touring past hits that have earned their place in people’s hearts.
“I gave up songwriting, as a job, about 1999,” he says. “I just decided I didn’t want to be a factory hand, someone who went to the piano so that he could have enough songs to make an album that year and fulfil his option with a record company.
“I feel very lucky that I didn’t make too many stinkin’ records, ’cause I certainly made a lot of records in the ’90s ’cause I had to, ’cause it was my job. I don’t feel like I need to be creative any more. I’ve been creative enough. If something strikes me I’ll follow it but l’m not gonna feel bad if I don’t write a song for a month.”
Neither will his wife, one suspects.
Publication: The Age
Publication date: 05/10/06