Cole’s fifth solo album is an unashamedly laid back affair and it’s a pleasant surprise after several patchy albums.

He’s struggled with a dual personality in recent years. On one hand he wanted to maintain his rock icon persona that brought such success – in the mid 80s Lloyd Cole and the Commotions battled with The Smiths for NME covers and platinum record discs. On the other hand there is Cole, the singer songwriter, who has ploughed his own particular furrow since the Commotions split in 89. Previous solo albums Bad Vibes, Love Story and his 2000 band release with The Negatives were mixed or even, at worst, bland, reflecting Cole’s uncertainty of direction.

“People they ain’t no good” he sings on the song of the same name. Perhaps on this evidence he’s stopped trying to create a band sound and a band vibe. He certainly no longer requires the support of a band behind him. A sense of calm pervades this record. It seems he is at last totally at ease with himself and his career; a mature artist.

This contentment has enabled him to produce 10 simple and beautiful songs. Several of these feature ex-Commotion Neil Clark and are clearly the better for it. His distinct guitar riffs perfectly compliment Cole’s vocals. Nowhere is this more obvious than with the wonderful final number, “Shelf Life”. Clark’s guitar repeats a simple rhythm while Lloyd softly sings about honesty and growing old.

Other highlights include ”Music In A Foreign Language”, which is a beautiful lullaby with its simple piano rhythms and Cole’s soft ”la la la”s; ”Late Night, Early Town” harks back to ”Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?” from the Commotions’ debut Rattlesnakes; while ”No More Love Songs” is evidence that Cole no longer feels obliged to write what is expected of him. He’s free from the constraints of major label demands for hits, and to write what he wishes.

Cole may be growing old but, thankfully, he’s doing so gracefully. Let’s hope there’s still more to come.

Publication date: 29/04/04