If the words “she’s got perfect skin” bang a jangly melody from years past into your brain, welcome to the club. If it doesn’t, it really should. The debut single from England’s Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, “Perfect Skin” remains one of the brightest hits from 1984, when smart, literate pop music was considered “alternative

The Commotions split up in 1987, but Cole, the creative force behind the band, moved to the United States and forged a solo career that has garnered an attentive cult following. With “Music in a Foreign Language,” Cole’s first studio album in five years (actually recorded into a Mac at his home in New England), he shows he still
possesses an evocative, aching, arching croon and that he can still write a song dense with dark lyrics and lush with guitar and keyboard melodies.

“Today I’m Not So Sure” and “My Other Life” touch on the somber emotional themes that have run throughout Cole’s career, but the collective brooding mood is summed up in his cover of Nick Cave’s “People Ain’t No Good,” including himself.

It’s a mature document, unhurried and utterly personal. Can Cole rise above the hundreds of other slow-strumming singer/songwriters who are baring their souls in down-tempo ballads? Probably not. The Adult Album Alternative format is a crowded, Sting-infested jungle.
But Cole is probably more concerned about creation than marketing: His collection of ambient electronic instrumentals called “Plastic Wood” will be released in the United States on May 11.

Publication: Washington Post

Publication date: 04/04/04