Wednesday, 3 July 2013

back from the dead !!!!

Let's get this out the way first, I have been shit with this Blog for the past.. god knows how long. I could make a series of valid excuses, but then this blog isn't about me , so I won't !

by Lloyd Cole now in the shops or already in your home if you were one of the 600 who pre-ordered this and helped to fund the project. I am aware that I have yet to grapple with Cole's recent instrumental piece -Selected Studies 1 and have jumped straight to the 'Mainstream' offering but I will come to the other piece later on.
Standards, do I have any? Yes and they are very high where music is involved. Broken Record has kept me satisfied since it's release and there has been so much more revealed on every listen, the gift that keeps on giving, and all that. Standards, what did I expect? Play it safe, build on Broken Record in terms of it's critical reception, this wouldn't have been a bad thing . Teaming up with Fred Maher & Matthew Sweet, who we last encountered on Bad Vibes (20 years ago already?) no I didn't see that coming. It seems that Cole has also been on a little rant about being 'niche' and 'cult' and having to pander to industry expectations, media PR circuits and the like, but it is hard to imagine a singer/songwriter who comes across as very restrained, considered and pre-meditated exploding out of the speakers possessed by some latent demonic vitriol. That's not to say Cole causing a commotion would be something unwelcome, I for one would be very interested to hear the rage against something, anything-unleashed against the post ironic ennui.
And Standards, Cole has also set himself against the Dylan benchmark referring to Dylan's Tempest and his general Fuck the audience stance. This comes as something of a relief , as I was working my way through recent interviews and features an overriding sense of 'jacking it in' was beginning to take hold, none of us want that, and as for the audience 'having enough Lloyd Cole records' I'm not sure you could make enough, in the same way that I have yet to be bored by Cohen or John Cale for that matter. L.C's comment about the new Bowie L.P being the best since '82 but he would only listen to it the once is very telling, but only about an artist of that sort of stature, it's a bit like going to see a Stones concert now, more about the spectacle of something historic than the quality of what that band are producing artistically at that moment, a kind of Rock National Trust concert. Thankfully L.C is anything but this type of artist , even if financially he wouldn't mind too much, and the fact that he is still crafting and honing records rather than banging them out so that the next tour can have a nice 'theme' goes to show how much he really does still care about what he is doing , despite the fact that he is struggling to win any new listeners. It should also be remembered that Dylan himself struggled for sometime as the songwriters songwriter with covers of his records far outselling his own versions, and once again Tim Hardin and also Cohen wasn't really setting the charts alight between Suzanne and First we take Manhattan, granted record sales counted for a lot more in terms of income at that point, but all the same we got to enjoy some amazing work from some hugely underrated artists for a sizable period of their careers.
Standards then, what an arresting piece of work . California Earthquake , beautifully re imagined and typically off kilter cover choice, and now costing me money ordering John Hartford's back catalogue as I am now hooked, cheers. Women's Studies thankfully didn't hurt my wallet anywhere near as much as Josef K  has been on the shelf for some time, nice nods towards Kafka and the Scottish post punk scene , fast product from Prague, nice. Would be interested to find out if the great wall of china reference is the Kafka short story or the Dead Kennedys track, as both sort of fit. Anyway nice jigsaw! I like the fact that the 'Young and Stupid' line ties in nicely with Josef K as well , had a lot of wry smiling listening to this record. The Howard Zinn/Springsteen juxtaposition early on works beautifully also, this song reminds me of checking through references on Rattlesnakes and easy pieces as cod-intellectual teenager, and I thoroughly enjoyed reliving the sensation. I struggled a little with 'Monday Morning Quarters' but had to make the assumption that this is an American sporting idiom referring to making a judgement in hindsight, after the event ? Music is absolutely addictive, I am a little confused by the 'media' trend that this is L.C's first time working with a band for x amount of years or sentiments to that tune, surely there was a band involved in the creation of Broken Record or am I missing something here?  Period Piece - this is what L.C is all about , extended metaphor, dualism, clinical statistics- all  made human by incorporating them into his personal experience . The idea of the Geisterbahnhofe flickering into life as the old order passes is as beautiful an Image as Cole has laid down anywhere for my money and weaves cinematically throughout the song conjuring Scott Walker's Stalin, the legendary Bowie/Iggy associations with Hansa , not to mention the mythology behind the Formers 'Heroes'. The dualism invoked by referencing Dickens' Tale of two cities , strikes me as a theme that runs trough the entire album, the pairs in opposite studies, the myrtle and the rose, 'bipartisan consensus' in women's studies . Stunning video also, Cole mentioned in an interview once that he and the commotions had kind of missed a trick with the video age, I don't think I have ever been more delighted by a collection of videos from Jennifer through Baby, So you'd like to save the world is particularly fantastic, and Period Piece is subtle, beautiful film making extending the Wall metaphor as a division with his past and the generational divide.
Myrtle and Rose -I have been struggling with the title, I am no doubt missing something blatantly obvious but then , if I am honest, this reminds me of the lure of buying Lloyd Cole albums in the first place. For me they were something to unravel, explore, a sphinx like quality always drew me back again and again. Also I am somewhat stupid. I did find that also I might be trying to hard and when the refrain The longer you were gone the less the longing kicked in I found my feet. During my research I did come across some lines by a German Poet that were rather interesting " with myrtles and roses...I would decorate this book like a coffin and bury my songs inside it" which I found  quite relevant considering L.C's recent musings on his lot. Also this song had echoes of work from Music in a foreign language , which is a win win situation from my point of view.
No Truck all I can say is I love this! The music reminds me of a composite of undressed and trigger happy which are two of my favourite songs, the sentiment is like a slight change in perspective on Dylan's Don't think twice it's alright , as if shot from a different angle,  you're the reason I been travelin' on/for I'm leaving here today.
Blue like Mars, this initially was and is (for now my favourite track) it sounds remarkably like it should live on L.C's debut solo album, but then evolves sonically into some amazing guitar work and sonic effects. Lyrically I will refer back to my early comments about a Sphinx like quality! I hold my hands up to not being able to penetrate these lyrics, the best I can offer here is an overriding sense of someone that has had their day, run their coarse, in a kind of sunset boulevard meets Wim Wenders films sort of a way ! oh where am I going with this.... what I do know is that I am listening to this album a lot and this track in particular is resonating with my current reading material Chuck Palahniuk's Invisible Monsters, there you go make sense of that! or stuck inside the future with those Martian blues again.
Musically, when Opposites Day began I moved from being reminded of the call and response guitars of the libertines to Elastica and then to Morrisey's the first of the gang to die, and that's before anyone started singing! Great song , very refreshing musically and nice pay off lines also ties in with earlier themes in the album. Also nod to Bowie's Candidate 'jump into the river holding hands'.
'I can't stay,
But I can't leave you like this'
Cole has said in the past that he was trying to become the Raymond Carver of song writing, I believe he reached that pinnacle on many of the tracks from Music in a foreign language, here though, on Silver Lake, we surely have a Bukowski piece set to music 'If we get lucky we'll go top shelf
We ain't drinking from no damned well" .
It's Late, loving this musically and the lyrics suggest that the 'Lateness'' alludes to the protagonists time of life, that this encounter is a last chance to prove himself and also give in to a weakness, temptation in 'lips as red as hellfire' 'I went looking for the devils daughter' , also some nice echoes of Perfect Blue-'I could be blue tonight'
Kids Today, Funny , pitched in the grumpy old men tones but really listing a string of repetitive generation gap clich├ęs and youth envy, I like the pay off line illustrating the fickle nature of father/son conversations perhaps? this works considering Will Coles presence on the record. 
The last lines of Diminished Ex appear to me to address not only the character in the song but also perhaps the press and media that Cole has had to endure and maybe even some of his fan base.
'So in light of these diminished expectations
I propose a temporary truce
If we are to negotiate these waters
Without further casualties'
But hey, that's just my reading of it.
Picking up from an earlier point regarding Cole moving forward to make the kind of albums he wants to make and not creating for the market, the best example of this I can think of in recent times is perhaps Nick Cave's foray into the realms of Grinderman. I enjoyed this mid life crisis, car crash, (dare I say it) Lost weekend beano, but more importantly the recent Bad Seeds offering Push the Sky Away brought with it a fresh new perspective and began a new chapter for a band that were in danger of becoming slightly formulaic. I am certainly not suggesting a rendering of No Pussy Blues but maybe , where we witnessed the brimming of the inner L.C back on Bad Vibes, we could knock the glass over and see what kind of  choice poison spills out.
Oh and yes, anyone shed any light on Three Volcanoes and a rose bush, soon to be nothing, soon enough, Seven of diamonds to the eight of spades. If not I am sure it will keep me busy until the next album.