This is a really good album from Lloyd Cole. I'm delighted that he's decided to go back to recording with a band and writing songs in his old style, because this album is genuinely reminiscent of Rattlesnakes and Easy Pieces and of a similar quality to those two near-masterpieces.
The album opens with California Earthquake - a surprising choice (to me anyway) because it's the only non-original song here and which I knew in a 1968 version by Mama Cass Eliot. It's given the Cole treatment, though, and sounds fresh and very like one of his own songs. From there on in it's vintage Lloyd Cole - guitar-driven songs with a beat, singable tunes and very intelligent and quirky lyrics. He's still got that great sideways take on things and in Women's Studies even has slightly different but still excellent swipe at the people with their Government grants and his IQ whom he immortalised in Perfect Skin (one of the very greatest songs of the 80s, in my view.)
The voice is still distinctively Lloyd Cole, although it has developed a slightly mellower tone these days. That is reflected in the tone of the songs, too, which are a little less spiky and more reflective on time past, but they still have plenty of substance and lots of insightful little gems like this in Myrtle and Rose.
"I became the one that sits and watches from afar
You became the woman in the German car..."
The band is great - tight, responsive to the songs and not over-produced. It's a fairly brief album with eleven songs running to a total of about 40 minutes with no padding and not a weak track anywhere. Perfect. It's a huge pleasure to get this album from a man whose work I have loved for 30 years but who hasn't really been on my radar for a long time. This is genuinely excellent, and if you like vintage Lloyd Cole you'll love this. A gem.
Here's an old-fashioned idea: get a brilliant songwriter to record some great new songs with top quality guitar, bass and drums, and then release them as an excellent, well-sequenced 40-minute album that stands on its own two feet as a coherent artistic statement. I know, it's SO last century. But this hasn't stopped Lloyd Cole from having a go, and with 'Standards' he's come up with an absolute treat for all us rockin' mums and dads. This is quite simply as good an album as he's ever made. For those of us who bobbed our floppy fringes along to 'Rattlesnakes' in the Student Union bar, these songs are recognisably cut from the same cloth but, remarkably, the sound has matured and deepened without putting on a single scrap of middle-age spread.
Musically, the 'heavier' numbers here ('Blue Like Mars', 'California Earthquakes') are given some real punch and crunch by Fred Maher's drumming and Matthew Sweet's bass work, while Cole himself provides some decent guitar licks. Meanwhile the more gentle and melancholy numbers are handled with poise and delicacy. 'Myrtle and Rose' is the pick of them for me - a beautifully bittersweet melody, and a lyric as dark as a Nick Cave song. "The longer you were gone, the less the longing" is its two-edged sign-off. It's a great track, but the rest of the album runs it close.
Part of the charm of Lloyd's song-writing is that it remains as self-consciously arch as ever. He still can't help poking fun at his own nerdy intelligence. As an example, the lyrics of 'Womens Studies' reference tea-drinking, bachelors degrees and dissertations, and include a contrived joke that requires knowledge of Kafka and early '80s Scottish post-punk bands to be remotely funny. Rock and ROLL!!
There'll always be a niche for witty, literate powerpop, and with 'Standards' Lloyd Cole stands at its very apex. (Can a niche have an apex? Ah.. you know what I mean) Bottom line: this is a brilliant record by an artist at the very top of his game.
on 25 June 2013
Lloyd's best since "Easy Pieces". He wears his influences more proudly now and even includes a cover. For all that this is a fiercely honest collection of songs which while sounding fresh still recalls the wonderful, swirling, tunefulness of his classic releases. Buy it. Buy it today...
I’ll admit up front that I have never been an 'ardent’ Lloyd Cole fan – indeed, I have my (obviously influential) other half to thank for any such (current) tendencies on my behalf. Of course, I’d always known (and quite liked) the man’s earlier famous stuff – the likes of Perfect Skin and Jennifer She Says – but with the release of 2013’s Standards I found myself increasingly picking out the CD for the car and humming along to the infectious tunes. Then I duly (under a small degree of duress) went along earlier this year to see the man’s solo show and was impressed not only with what is still a remarkably lush and sonorous voice, plus the high number of catchy songs on show, but also with the man’s (between song) dry wit and self-deprecating sense of irony.
Standards is a particularly fine collection of songs, recorded in Cole’s adopted home of Los Angeles. OK, there is nothing particularly innovative or ground-breaking here – it has the feel of a slightly less edgy, musically toned-down Lou Reed (one of Cole’s great heroes), with a little bit of Nashville thrown in for good measure – but these are, pretty much without exception, carefully crafted songs with consistently catchy melodies and some witty and nicely ironic lyrics. Now in his early fifties, Cole presents us with much (mixed) reflection on life, loves and his past career 'in the business’, lyrically playing on words with many band/music references and allusions, including to the likes of Johnny Thunders, Josef K, Fast Product, Bob Dylan, Blondie, David Bowie, The Jam, Queens Of The Stone Age, etc.
All 11 songs here have (at least) something going for them, including the only non-Cole composition, a remarkable re-interpretation of John Hartford’s California Earthquake. Elsewhere, other standouts for me include the intoxicating rhythm of Period Piece, during which Cole reminisces mostly positively, the pulsating, atmospheric 'old-style Cole’ on Blue Like Mars (with its particularly fine guitar break), the Velvets or (perhaps more accurately) Television’s Marquee Moon-like opening to the excellent Opposites Day and the superbly ironic take on changing fashions and the generation gap in Kids Today (with his ‘post-ironic ennui’ reference being a highlight). Ballad-wise, the album also excels, with Silver Lake and (particularly) Myrtle and Rose, providing some sublime moments.
on 24 June 2013
This is what I want from a Lloyd Cole album.
I was highly privileged to be part of a group of select fans who received this early, so I've had a couple of weeks to listen.
It's the strongest A side since Rattlesnakes (remember the Perfect Skin, Rattlesnakes, Forest Fire combo?), with California Earthquake (a cover, rare for Lloyd) kicking things off, and Period Piece, Women's Studies and Myrtle and Rose being VERY strong songs. The latter is now one of my all-time favourites, Lloyd's voice is mature and strong on this. It's a very powerful song.
Side B (do folks still talk about "sides"?) has Blue Like Mars (would easily sit on the Commotions "Mainstream" album in my opinion) and Opposite's Day...the latter is a very contemporary sound in my opinion.
The only thing that lets down the album is the pace... there are some forays into deeper "country" music territory than has been usual for Lloyd, never more apparent than the end of side A ("No Truck").
My HUGE realisation is that this album...well... ROCKS. The energy and vigour is amazing (apparently motivated by Lloyd reviewing Dylan's new album and realising what energy the 72 year old icon still throws out in his albums).
This is a wonderful album, and I'm stunned by it, to be honest...
on 4 July 2013
I have always loved Lloyd Cole and this album is brilliant. Have read an ungenerous review saying he is a pastiche of his former self but this is patently unfair. Yes, you can tell it's him but his distinctive style and great voice is why we love him.
on 15 August 2013
I can only agree with the comments of other reviewers - this is an album well worth a listen. As a huge fan of his earlier work, it was well worth the wait to hear this distinctive voice again, it couldn't be anyone else! As you'd expect the lyrics are well crafted, and the songs grow on you with each play. I also bought Broken Record and would definitely recommend both.
on 2 July 2013
The new Lloyd Cole album, Standards, is what many would call a return to form. Back is the sound of the Commotions and early solo work, gone, for the most part, are the folk and country songs that have been so prevalent on his last few albums.
Standards kicks off with a cover of John Hartford's "California Earthquake". Hartford is described as "an American folk, country and bluegrass composer and musician known for his mastery of the fiddle and banjo", so my expectations were not good. It turns out to be a fantastic song, and a great opener. I never would have believed it.
Song number 2, and potential the second single after the excellent "Period Piece", is "Women Studies" that could easily have appeared on Easy Pieces. It's lyrically sharp witted and punchy. For Commotions fans this is truly a return to form.
Other standout tracks include the aforementioned "Period Piece", which is slower paced, but still very catchy, as well as "Myrtle and Rose".
The song "No Truck" is a grower. It could sit comfortably on the Love Story album. But I'm still trying to figure out what the lyrics "She will have no truck with me" means. Curious. But pretty.
As with other Lloyd Cole albums, the closer on Standards, "Diminished Ex", is a gem; the guitars are superb on this track, and while lyrically we expect the subject of the song to be a person (an "ex"), it turns out to be short for "diminished expectations". Nice twist.
All in all, a great album. Recommended.
on 27 October 2013
A deserved 5 stars
I'm not going to wax overly lyrical on this new Lloyd Cole album, but it is a few notches above anything he has brought out over the last decade or even two. I've followed Lloyd through his pretty consistent solo career, enjoying his releases - albeit most were fairly short-lived at being first choice listens through my greying years. He has kept with it, remained true I think to himself, not tried too hard to grab our tentative attentions. This album really stands out, whether it is the production or just the `standard' of the song being offered, whatever way - it works. It just really works and has been grabbing my daily attention since purchasing it upon its release.
Well just thought I'd say as it deserves the praise. A stand out album for 2013.
ON my daily gruelling journeys - 60 miles there, 60 miles back - my choice however, but probably not the wisest as I stand and reflect in the retrospect - Lloyd usually accompanies me on the return part, for that, just want to say `thanks'!
At 6am through the mist at the moment it is Justin Currie, followed actually by the new Travis album - for some reason I can't quite place, I'm sure that one won't be with me for long. Last week the new Prefab Sprout one was also on the menu, which at first I wasn't overly keen on but I see now it is creeping into my psyche a bit. Re-acquaintance with music
on 3 November 2013
Every song on this Lp is of a superb 'standard' . I love the vivian westwood shirt you wear - why don't you ever let me wear it. great line - tongue in cheek lyric. hails back to the early 80's where the best shirts were blouses!
There are plenty more lyrics which resonate, are witty, clever and a delight to listen to. The melodies are really strong on each and a testament to the new energy the band format give the songs. I would say this record is better than broken record and for me Lloyd is peaking. Great