I've always envied Lloyd Cole's life. Or at least the life that I've glimpsed in the lyrics of his songs. Ever since his debut in the mid-'80s with his group the Commotions, Cole has played the part of the downtown romantic intellectual. I picture him, subway breeze in his hair, battered guitar case in one hand, cigarette in the other. When he's not being seduced by girls who look like Eva Marie Saint in On the Waterfront, he's discussing Simone de Beauvoir in some all-night cafe.
But that's the old Lloyd Cole. On "The Young Idealists" and "Woman In A Bar," the two opening songs of his fine new album - his thirteenth - he holds his romantic image up to a naked light.
From the first song:
The Young Idealists
From the second:
No longer angry
Cole isn't really bitter or jaded. He's just aging gracefully, trading the drama of his youth for less complicated pleasures like walking in good weather ("NYC Sunshine"), riding in a new car ("Everysong"), watching Six Feet Under ("Antidepressant"), and daydreaming about New Mexico ("Traveling Light"). He's also swapping the sliding doors of youthful affairs for more substantial challenges, like keeping a serious relationship afloat. Along those lines, "I Didn't See It Coming" and the lilting "I Am Not Willing" are two of the most mature, fully realized songs he's ever sung.
Arrangement-wise, Cole favors the modern troubadour ethos, acoustic guitar rubbing elbows with light percussion, distant pianos and tasteful synth textures. And as always, his conversational singing voice hovers front and center, inviting the listener in to sit for a spell.
I miss the old Lloyd a little. But I envy the new Lloyd. He's figuring out how to enjoy middle age. He's a guy I'd like to have coffee with. We could talk about YouTube instead of Camus. • Bill DeMain