On Pain – Album Review
Lloyd Cole – On Pain (earMUSIC)
CD | DL | LP
Buy from Sister Ray Records
Fresh from The Establishment, his home studio in Massachusetts, comes Cole’s newest album, On Pain. And despite its title, the album is a delight.
Ah, the joy of an unexpected Lloyd Cole record landing on your desk.
On first glance, you may fear that, with his 16th album, he has opted for some masochistic, musical self-flagellation. Rest easy, for On Pain is anything but. This record sees Cole, with his near four-decade-long career, manoeuvring his musical craft like an expert sommelier – there’s a hint of ‘Plastic Wood’ here, a dash of Music In A Foreign Language there, and the bold electronic palette of ‘Guesswork’ throughout.
On Pain is a departure of sorts but without forsaking the familiar. It’s a bit like moving into a chic, ultramodern flat but bringing your favourite recliner along. Former Commotions keyboardist Blair Cowan and guitarist Neil Clark contributed with several songs in the album, creating a welcome reunion of sorts. Chris Hughes, producer extraordinaire (Tears for Fears, Adam and the Ants, Robert Plant), lent his prowess to the project too, and when you add backing vocals from Joan Wasser (Joan as Police Woman), Renée LoBue (Elk City) and Dave Derby (Gramercy Arms), what you have is a record that’s filled with talent to its brim.
Several of the tracks stand out: The Idiot, for example, is a lush reverie that reimagines Iggy Pop and David Bowie’s infamous Berlin phase through the lens of sobriety. There’s also This Can’t Be Happening, where with just three lines (“You can’t believe it/It can’t be possible/But it’s happening now”) repeated over a hauntingly sparse backing track, Cole manages to wrap any existential angst you may have in a comforting electronic blanket.
His deployment of Auto-Tune in I Can Hear Everything has raised a few eyebrows in the music press. But let’s be clear, Lloyd Cole is no Cher in ‘Believe’; he’s taken a tool most often associated with pop’s disposable sheen and used it with a discretion and tact that never overpowers his signature vocal delivery. Instead, it gives a certain ethereal quality to the song, painting his words with an otherworldly shade. A brave move? Perhaps, but this is Lloyd Cole: an artist who has spent his career not just making music, but pushing boundaries. It’s yet another reminder that, even after all these years, he is still daring to experiment and take risks.
‘On Pain’ is an exploration of what it means to be a singer-songwriter in the 21st century. It blends all that insight and lyricism Cole is so well-known for with a minimalistic, electronic canvas, leaving you with melodies and words that linger long after the last note has faded.
To echo the title track, “of course the table is rigged for the house”. But when the dealer is Lloyd Cole, you can’t help but want a punt.
Lloyd Cole will be heading out on tour across the UK in October
Fri 06 NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Tyne Theatre and Opera House
Sat 07 LIVERPOOL The Philharmonic Hall
Sun 08 DUBLIN Olympia Theatre
Tue 10 MANCHESTER Albert Hall
Thu 12 ABERDEEN Tivoli Theatre
Sat 14 EDINBURGH Usher Hall
Sun 15 GLASGOW Royal Concert Hall
Tue 17 YORK Barbican
Thu 19 LONDON Union Chapel
Fri 20 LONDON Union Chapel
Sat 21 LONDON Union Chapel
Mon 23 BOURNEMOUTH O2 Academy
Tue 24 CAMBRIDGE Corn Exchange
Wed 25 IPSWICH The Corn Exchange
Fri 27 BUXTON Opera House
Sat 28 COVENTRY Cathedral
Sun 29 NOTTINGHAM Albert Hall
Tue 31 BRIGHTON Dome
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All words by Angela J. Watt. More writing by Angela on Louder Than War can be found in her author’s archive. She tweets as @oneangelapinto
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