Lloyd Cole has announced an extensive Autumn tour, and is stopping off at Belfast’s Empire Music Hall on the 4th of November.
Before that a new Album – Guesswork – will be released on 26 July 2019
Some albums coalesce around a title. Lloyd Cole’s new album is one such record. Guesswork mirrors the uncertainty of the world as you enter your third act. Guesswork is consistent with a record whose protagonists seem reluctant to venture confidently beyond the moment.
In terms of minutes, it’s his longest, but in terms of songs, it’s shorter than any of his previous eleven solo albums (fourteen if you count those he made with The Commotions). Guesswork is also his shortest in terms of total words sung. This might come as a surprise to those who primarily remember Lloyd for the precocious literary pop dispatches of 1984’s debut Rattlesnakes
However, for other onlookers who have followed his progress in the interim – taking in the muscular urban art-rock of his solo debut X (1990), the delicate digital folk of Music In A Foreign Language (2004) and a succession of electronic albums culminating in 2015’s 1D – that may be less so.
Mostly constructed in his Massachusetts attic space, Lloyd’s first “songs” album since 2013’s universally acclaimed Standards sees him finally create a (mostly) electronic setting for his voice. “For a while,” he says, “it wasn’t clear if the project would ever come to fruition. I’ve always listened to electronic music, ever since hearing albums like [Iggy Pop’s] The Idiot and [David Bowie’s] Low. There’s a simplicity to those records – even the gentle songs are very brutally projected. As I’ve got older, I’ve become more attracted to lyrics that suit that delivery. Ageing is brutal and lends itself to a less ornamented way of writing.”
At times, the experience of listening to Guesswork is akin to sitting in a sleek, state-of-the-art departure lounge, unsure of quite where you’re waiting to go. It’s a feeling that finds its purest expression amid the pensive stabs and brittle snare cracks that measure out The Afterlife’s hungover existential audit and Remains – the latter one of two songs on the record co-written by Lloyd’s old Commotions colleague Blair Cowan. Over a synergy of rapt synths and exquisite saxophone, the song finds Lloyd riding the seemingly sudden realisation that “we’re nothing to no-one” – a rueful inversion of the sentiments parlayed on 1990’s Don’t Look Back (“When you’re nothing to no one/And you’re less than you can…”)
“When I was 27,” notes Lloyd, “The concept of the washed up older guy seemed very entertaining.” And now? And now, he says, “I’m starting to think that old age could be a lot more fun than middle age. Because really what have we got to lose?”