Reviewer Dr. Wesley Britton: Dr. Britton is the author of four non-fiction books on espionage in literature and the media. Starting in fall 2015, his new six-book science fiction series, The Beta-Earth Chronicles, debuted via BearManor Media. For seven years, he was co-host of online radio’s Dave White Presents where he contributed interviews with a host of entertainment insiders. Before his retirement in 2016, Dr. Britton taught English at Harrisburg Area Community College. Learn more about Dr. Britton at his WEBSITE
Musician: Lloyd Cole
Release Date: October 14, 2014
Label: Omnivore Recordings
Thirty years back, Lloyd Cole debuted on the scene with his band The Commotions, but he's released 10 solo albums since. He's better known in the U.K. than the states, mostly for his baritone voice, gentle songwriting, and acoustic guitar work. On October 14, U.S. listeners can hear his new Standards on disc or as an MP3 download, his second recent outing using a full band.
Recorded in late 2012 to early 2013, Standards was only available in Europe until this fall when Omnivore Records will release it for the American audience. In publicity for the record, Cole said he was inspired by Bob Dylan's 2012 Tempest which demonstrated old timers can still put out vital music. In many ways, Standards reaches back to rock's past for its main ingredients. That's both on personal and musical levels.
For example, drummer Fred Maher and bassist Matthew Sweet had played with Cole on his first solo albums in 1990 and 1991. Blair Cowan of The Commotions reunited with Cole on keyboards as does Joan (As Police Woman) Wasser on piano and additional vocals. This was essentially the same band who supported Cole on 2010's Broken Record along with several new guitarists including Cole's son, William.
While much has been made of Cole plugging in his electric guitar to rock out on Standards, the 11 songs are more reminiscent of relaxed pre-Beatles pop and mid-'60s folk-rock with a laid-back approach and feel. Other than the opener, John Hartford's "California Earthquake" (first sung by Mama Cass), all the songs are Cole originals, many of them looking affectionately back on his youth. For example, he remembers when we were "young and stupid" in "Women's Studies" where he tells us “to complete my education I had to wake up in your bathtub.” (A nod to "Norwegian Wood"?) "These were the best of times" he sings in "Period Piece," the first single from the album.
Tapping into familiar acoustic-based territory, Cole gets very folkie on the ballad "Myrtle and Rose" and the gentle "No Truck." He dives into old school country/rock ballads with "Silver Lake" and "It's Late." Through it all, Cole is optimistic and affirming, as in his message to adults about "Kids Today." Things aren't so bad, he tells us. Perhaps the best song on the album, "Opposites Day," is a pure AM pop single that would please fans of Buddy Holly or Roy Orbison or, later on, Tom Petty.
In the end, Standards is a collection of songs for old timers who don't want rock with a driving, hard heavy metal edge. It sounds nostalgic both lyrically and in the musical settings, so it's ideal for road trips or afternoon tea breaks. It's a record where you want to pay attention to the lyrics—the title isn't the only wordplay in the collection.
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