Published on July 24th, 2019 | by James Hrivnak


Lloyd Cole – Guesswork

Lloyd Cole is back with his 15th album, Guesswork, a welcome, but sometimes uneven set of tracks that still showcases his songwriting, talent, and artistry.


‘Guesswork’ doesn’t open markedly different from most of Lloyd Cole’s recent catalogue: ‘The Over Under’ sounds perhaps a little more subdued, a plaintive, meditative number – orchestral in its composition, late night in its mood. As soon as track two – “Night Sweats” – starts, the mood has changed: the bubbling synths blip and bloop like a classic 8-bit, but there’s a swagger that can only come from seeing the other side of middle age, born from confidence that you don’t care what other people think, tossing off casually that he’s a “complicated motherfucker.” The song is playful, tuneful, and one of his best since dismantling the Commotions. Guesswork’s first single “Violins” is similarly thrilling in its immediacy, with obliquely political lyrics and synths that carry the song into the stratosphere. The guitar solo at the end recalls Cole’s “Forest Fire” in a way that’s warm and reassuring (no surprise consider ex-Commotions guitarist Neil Clark features on the album). This may seem really inside baseball, so forgive me in advance, but it recalls Manic Street Preachers’ similarly synth-driven 2004 album ‘Lifeblood.’

Yet, ‘Guesswork’ – Cole’s 15th album – doesn’t sustain that kind of musical thrill throughout. The remainder of the scant 8-song set (still clocking solid 44 minutes) isn’t as immediate as the first pair of singles. Yet, the slower tempos and electronic texture feel like the croon of Blue Nile, which is always welcome. There’s not a bad song on the set — some stick more than others do – though there’s something missing from Guesswork.’ It feels incomplete, or the sequencing is off; I can’t put my finger on it. But, we should all still be thankful that Cole is still making music, and not resting on his laurels. In his fourth decade recording, it’s so refreshing to hear him push himself further and explore new sounds and textures. It may not be a grand statement or a watershed moment in Cole’s career, but ‘Guesswork’ does showcase what’s made him such a rich and rewarding artist.


Guesswork is out on July 26 from earMUSIC.

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s a Waterloo, Ontario-based writer, critic, film geek, music nerd, and family man. He’s been contributing to several online music and film publications for more than a decade. The H is silent. Find James on Twitter at @j_hrivnak.

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