To borrow a phrase from Manic Street Preachers, Lloyd Cole is making one last shot at mass communication with his new album. Standards has already been compared to Lloyd Cole & the Commotions’ debut Rattlesnakes for its classic rock’n’roll references but also, more likely, because Rattlesnakes remains the Cole benchmark.
LlOYD COLE: STANDARDS
TAPETE RECORDS £14.99
Star rating: * * *
The inspiration, however, came from some old dude called Bob Dylan. Cole has described hearing Dylan’s latest album Tempest as “a kick up the backside”, which caused him to pick up an electric guitar, cut loose and lead from the gut after two decades of largely acoustic material.
Standards also comes swiftly on the heels of Selected Studies Vol.1, an album of ambient instrumentals composed in collaboration with Krautrock luminary Hans-Joachim Roedelius. But, of Cole’s two 2013 releases, the wryly named Standards is the one that plays to the fans – and understandably so, as it is a crowd-funded recording made in LA, New York and at his home in Massachusetts with his longstanding rhythm section of Fred Maher and Matthew Sweet and guest appearances from Joan Wasser, aka Joan As Policewoman, Commotions keyboard player Blair Cowan and Cole’s son Will on guitar.
In slightly thrawn style, the album actually opens with a cover version, but psych folk rocker California Earthquakes, written by John Gentle On My Mind Hartford, sounds like an old friend to Cole, who wraps his best off-kilter baritone drawl around its Velvets-style contours.
He follows this seamlessly with his own playful Lou Reed-like rocker. Women’s Studies is a blithe exercise in nostalgia, with namechecks for Josef K and the Fast Product label and insouciant recall of his wild years: “to complete my education I had to wake up in your bathtub” is a line to revel in. “These were the best of times” he recalls huskily on Period Piece over springy bassline and bright jangling guitar.
The pensive ballad Myrtle And Rose and mellow country ramble No Truck are just as evocative but, beyond this, through the fairly perfunctory pop/rocker Opposites Day, torchy ballad Silver Lake and the breezy, unforced Kids Today (with their “post-ironic ennui”), Standards doesn’t quite maintain its standard.
Still, it is a pleasure to behold Cole’s relish as he busts out the Dylan delivery on closing number Diminished Ex. Best to cherish the moment, as Cole has intimated this may be his album swansong.