Playing a solo show at Joe’s Pub on Thursday night, Lloyd Cole let the audience in on the interior monologue that goes on inside a performer’s head when he plays songs written years earlier. After singing ”Hey Rusty,” from 1987, he chided his grandiose 26-year-old self for writing about ”the boulevards” instead of simple streets.

That kind of detail matters to a songwriter like Mr. Cole, an unabashed admirer of Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and other songwriters who delineate closely observed characters with a few verses and a handful of chords.

On albums, Mr. Cole is a folk-rocker who is fond of 1960’s pop, threading his songs with guitar lines and countermelodies. Onstage, the songs needed only his acoustic guitar, lightly picked or firmly strummed, and his unforced voice. Playing songs by Mr. Dylan, Mr. Cohen and Nick Cave among his own, he tactfully demonstrated that his work could stand alongside theirs.

Mr. Cole, who was born in Scotland but now lives in the United States, specializes in songs about the wreckage left by love. Though things do occasionally work out in his songs and he has been married for 12 years, his repertory is filled with alluring but elusive women, from the girl in 1984’s ”Rattlesnakes” whose ”heart is like crazy paving/Upside down and back to front,” to ”The Impossible Girl” on his most recent American album, ”The Negatives” (March Records), his first since 1995.

Through the years, Mr. Cole has pared away the book and film name-dropping and the movie-script touches in his songs, zeroing in on the enduring subjects of longing and disillusionment. He puts as much regret into his songs as romance, but he’s still as susceptible as ever to a glimmer of hope or the pleasure of a well-turned melody.

Jon Parales

Published: 12 – 29 – 2001 , Late Edition – Final , Section A , Column 1 , Page 29

Link to original article online

Publication: New York Times

Publication date: 29/12/01