This moody yet self-deprecating singer/songwriter's album will be nothing new to fans that have followed the long arc of Lloyd Cole's career. One listen to "What's Wrong with This Picture" -- which offers the sentiment "'Smile,' she said, 'If you want I'll look the other way/Til you regain your melancholy disposition or until you get over yourself'" over a bright guitar figure -- places longtime fans on familiar ground. Cole's uncanny melodic ear is also still in place. What is new, however, is his return to fronting a full-time band after spending his post-Commotions years (they split in 1988) as a fairly singular figure. The Negatives includes such talent as Jill Sobule ("I Kissed a Girl") and one-time Dambuilder Dave Derby, and the merry-band-of-thieves ethic seems to lend some levity to the proceedings. "Tried to Rock" casts a wry eye on Cole's early solo days (circa his 1990 self-titled solo debut), when the onetime arch '80s intellectual/singer (a la Morrissey) moved to New York, grew his hair, and embraced general debauchery. "I did not fail to see what it takes to rock/Is that which I have not," sings Cole in highly un-rock, grammatical fashion over a ponderous rock-ballad beat. The album opener, "Past Imperfect," also serves up some retrospection, offering lyrical references to Cole's "Brand New Friend" and "Lost Weekend" (as well as Leonard Cohen's "Chelsea Hotel" with "Why was my head in the unmade bed?"). Cole, at age 40, seems comfortable with himself and his career -- quirks, blemishes, and all -- and one would be hard pressed to find any of his U.K. '80s contemporaries making such a strong, winningly melodic album...if they're still making albums at all.
AllMusic Review by Erik Hage