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Lloyd Cole / Antidepressant review

SDE reviews the reissue of Cole’s 2006 album

Lloyd Cole / Antidepressant reissue reviewed

‘The Young Idealists’, track one on Lloyd Cole’s 2006 album Antidepressant, is indicative of everything that is good about this record.

It’s a gem, an intimate, acoustically-strummed number with a wry lyric where the narrator reflects on how age mellows us and convictions are forgotten or diluted over time. There’s a typical deft economy with Cole’s choice of words and surely everyone of a certain age can relate to some of these lines, like the opening couplet: “I know I said I favoured peaceful resolution / But that was when we were the young idealists”. The twist in this tale is that although the young idealists of the song buy into the “neocon economic dream”, the “markets fall” and they look back and think the idea of a “wholesale revolution” wasn’t so silly after all and what’s so wrong with fighting for a “future we can breathe in”?

Just prior to this reissue, Cole told of how 2006 was “probably the low point” of his career and it’s impossible not to reflect back and consider how things played out for the singer-songwriter. In 1984, with the Commotions, Cole delivered Rattlesnakes, a near-perfect album and ever since, he has been trying, presumably, to repeat that achievement, battling against all sorts of foes, including producers who may not have been right for the job, record companies who at times didn’t even want to release the albums and the ‘general public’, who lost interest and went off and bought records by Blur and Oasis, instead of his.

After his tenure at Polydor drew to an unhappy close in the late ’90s, Cole’s transition to the new millennium was somewhat fragmented as he apparently enjoyed having the freedom to do as he pleased. So he issued various records on different independent labels, had a brief period in a new band (The Negatives), messed around with instrumental ambient electronica and played a lot of golf. The 2004 tour reunion with The Commotions aside, to anyone who wasn’t a big Lloyd Cole fan, he’d all but disappeared.

Cut to 2006, and Cole was in something of a no man’s land, in terms of connecting with a wider audience. There was no social media for him to directly converse with fans and sell his wares (last year LC created a successful Patreon channel which has helped him through lockdown) but neither was there the marketing and financial clout of a major label. All he could do was get his head down and carry on making the best records he could as cheaply as possible – hence Antidepressant was recorded in his home studio, and largely self-performed with some help from a few old friends (including ex-Commotion Neil Clark). In Lloyd’s own words: “The strings come from sampled recordings, as do most of the drums and the entire thing was mostly programmed, rather than played. 75 percent of the sound is me in a room, for almost a year, with a computer and some microphones and a guitar”.

It would be lazy to position Antidepressant as some kind of ‘lost’, hidden gem of an album, because the reality is, that while some are better than others, Cole has probably never made a bad record in his life and certainly for the last 25 years or so, any number of them could be categorised as ‘lost’ (or indeed ‘gems’).

But back to the album in question… ’Woman in a Bar’ is perky piano-led number with a filmic stream-of-conscious vocabulary and the theme of getting older continues, with pithy lines like “No longer angry, No longer young, No longer driven to distraction, Not even by Scarlett Johansson”.

‘NYC Sunshine’ emits positive rays with plenty of crisp acoustic guitars, but again, we find the protagonist in this song comfortable in his own skin as he admits: “I won’t mind if you think that I’m lazy, I won’t care if you find me insincere, Because it’s the best that I can do”.

The title track of the album has that toe-tapping rocky groove prevalent on some of the first solo album (think, ‘I Hate To See You Baby Doing That Stuff’) and it’s a great to hear the electric guitars come out – a welcome shift in tone. Somehow the repeated use of the word ‘medication’ in this song just feels very ‘Lloyd Cole’, even if the reference to ‘Six Feet Under’ dates the song as much as the mention of Dallas dates ABBA’s ‘The Day Before You Came’.

The Dylan-esque ‘Everysong’ is probably as average as Antidepressant gets. ’How Wrong Can You Be?’ is curious and beguiling and Cole tackles Moby Grape’s ‘I Am Willing’ with a light, almost ambient touch.

‘Slip Away’ is fine, but it’s another languid, mellow number so it’s a relief to see things pick up with the Sun Records-style Country rhythm of ‘Travelling Light’ which blows a cool breeze of restrained guitar figures and vocal harmonies in the face of the listener.

Antidepressant saves one of the best for last with the wonderfully titled ‘Rolodex Incident’. A seductive, extended intro sees slinky piano cut a path through guitars and drums with electronic beats pulsing low in the mix, in the background. There’s not traditional song structure on offer, no chorus, not even a particularly strong vocal melody, and yet… the music; those four short verses; that hint of loss and intrigue… they just draw you in.

It’s a satisfying end to what is a very good record, although the harsh reality was that back in 2006, this album always had its work cut out for it to stretch beyond the bounds of the hardcore Lloyd Cole audience. And that’s where the new reissue comes into play. Antidepressant gets another chance, or rather flip that; the wider audience gets another chance to discover and enjoy the album!

The reissue offers some rewards to fans and collectors, the most significant being that the album is issued on vinyl for the very first time (even if there was never any analogue master tape to cut from). Also, Susan Logoreci’s artwork looks fantastic on the larger format (especially with the inner gatefold) and the CD isn’t a slapdash cheap jewel case affair either – it apes the vinyl gatefold, even having a (printed) protective inner sleeve for the disc. Given that Cole is a superb lyricist I’d love to have seen the words to the songs reproduced.

Both formats offer one solitary bonus track in the form of ‘Coattails’. It’s appended to the album on the CD but comes as a bonus seven-inch single (one-sided) with the vinyl edition. It’s worthy of inclusion and appears to share some musical DNA with ‘Get Can’t Arrested’ from 1993’s Bad Vibes; indeed that song’s title is actually referenced in the opening lines of ‘Coattails’. There’s a similar autobiographical vibe (no pun intended) at play here, especially as Lloyd sings the lines “Got out of the city / everyone agreed / that the life that you were living / wasn’t healthy” more than likely a reference to him leaving behind his ‘New York years’.

There’s undoubtedly a weary vibe of frustration and maybe even disappointment flowing through the veins of Antidepressant. The man who wrote ‘Perfect Skin’ and ‘Forest Fire’ had turned 45 while he was recording the album and so was looking down the barrel of his half-century while playing tiny venues to crowds of two or three hundred. There must have been some serious soul-searching going on. But don’t let that put you off. A young idealist would say that we suffer for our art and one hopes that Antidepressant was precisely the kind of self-medication Lloyd Cole needed at the time. This repeat prescription comes highly recommended.

The Antidepressant reissue is out now on via Edel/Ear Music.

Please note that some of those vinyl prices on the SDE widget are not correct (it’s £25 in the UK, for example). Slight technical glitch which is being addressed! Thanks.

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Antidepressant

Antidepressant vinyl LP + coattails seven-inch

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Tracklisting

Lloyd Cole / Antidepressant reissue reviewed

Antidrepressant Lloyd Cole / CD or vinyl

      1. The Young Idealists
      2. Woman In A Bar
      3. NYC Sunshine
      4. Antidepressant
      5. I Didn’t See It Coming
      6. How Wrong Can You Be?
      7. Everysong
      8. I Am Not Willing
      9. Slip Away
      10. Traveling Light
      11. Rolodex Incident
      12. Coattails

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23 Comments

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wayne klein
SDE Fanatic

As a long time fan Igoing back to Rattlesnakes, it’s nice to see this fine album get a reissue. I<wouldn’t say it’s his best but it has strong material and the irony of the title was never lost on me. I’m hoping we get back to normal sooner than later as I want to see Lloyd love again. Wish that the Commotions reunion had hit the states in a meaningful way but the past is the part.

Steve W

Another great review, it may even make me buy it! I know LC from afar but apart from Mainstream & his first solo album (LC) & odd singles I don’t know or have any other albums. For me those 2 have always seeemd so sublime & perfect that I almost don’t dare to try anything else.

BRUCE

Enjoyed reading your review of the album and background to it. More like this would be welcome?
I remember buying the album when it came out, but it was only on a promo CD and I never saw it in any of the shops. I agree that LC rarely puts a foot wrong, and he was still doing good stuff in the early 2000s – the album Music in a Foreign Language, which preceded Antidepressant was very good, and Lloyd recently touted a possible vinyl reissue on twitter. There are also some decent compilations either side of these albums – 2001 a 4 CD collection from [er] 2001, and Cleaning out the Ashtrays in 2009, another 4 CD collection.
He’s very much worth following on twitter and patreon – some nice stuff on patreon, and he’s quite open and honest with fans why he’s doing patreon. He’s well worth supporting.

John Berry

Superb review of yet another vg LC album!

Mik C

Thanks Paul for bringing this re-release to your site and the detailed review.

Aside from Rattlesnakes my fav album is Bad Vibes which you refer to in your review, I really gelled with Bad Vibes for some reason, I think it has a George Harrison guitar vibe about it.

I’d love for that LP to be re-released on vinyl too.

Lee

This was a favorite of mine when it came out. Very nice to see it reissued on vinyl – already preordered months ago. Lloyd Cole never fails to comes up with some very nice turns of phrase. I’ve loved his work since I first heard it back on 1987’s Mainstream and I hope that he keeps on putting great music for years to come.

Stephen

Thanks, Paul, for this excellent and insightful review – a reminder that I need to explore his catalogue further. Really enjoyed the song samples as well.

Calling LC fans: I have the three Commotions albums and his solo debut, but need to investigate the rest. Beyond this album, any other suggestions for what to sample next?

John MC cann

Don’t know about the music!,but if you enjoy a good read ,,bass player Lawrence donegan has written 5 great books,, California dreamin’ is probably the best of them in my opinion!

Mark

Don’t Get Weird On Me Babe is a personal favourite. Also I’m currently enjoying Standards and Folksinger IV (live acoustic set).

I’m one of those LC fans that lost him post Love Story (not bad) … no vinyl releases and no music press coverage. Have seen his acoustic set twice 2018, it’s really excellent and I’m now looing at hoovering up the late 1990’s onwards releases. This is definitely being added to my shopping list.

Anthony Eagle

Don’t get weird on me babe
The negatives album
Guesswork

Lee Carson

Stephen – I would just go for them in order so Don’t Get Weird on Me Babe us next although the quality of his work had been consistently high

Stephen

Thanks so much everyone for all the tips. Greatly appreciated.

Trash

I’d just like to cast a (late) vote for Don’t Get Weird on Me Babe. Each side is in a different style (orchestral vs. rock/pop) but the songs are consistently strong and the arrangements on the orchestral side, in particular, are lovely.

Bob McCartney

Great Review, Paul.
I have most of LC and also Commotions output though it is obviously time for me to revisit his later work. Can’t say enough good things about Lloyd. I have hit his “Cleaning Out The Ashtrays” collection pretty hard as of late and always seem to find something fresh and revealing in that set. I highly recommend it. Also, last time I checked, it was still reasonably priced and available.
Looking forward to the new site and you are still my number one destination on the World Wide Web.
Stay Well!

Lee Carson

An excellent review of what I consider to be a very good album and one that I have played regularly since it was first released.

Lloyd has always had a “knack” of writing superb lyrics with a style of his own

Fredster

Thank you so much for your wonderful review.
Antidepressant was never one of my favorite albums by LC, probably because I tend to think its immediate predecessor, Music in a foreign language, is the most beautiful and heartbreaking album he has ever made.
I bought Antidepressant at the time of its release, and I initially thought it was a bit patchy, a bit “more of the same”. It didn’t really clicked with me. I realize now that it’s not because the songs are subpar (like you said, LC has always had a high quality control) but because of the general atmosphere of the album. You can feel an air of desperation in these songs, just as if Lloyd was acknowledging the fact that his life and his career would never be the same again after he lost his contract with Polydor in 1995. This is a raw portrait of a desillusioned artist, fighting mid-life crisis, who doesn’t know what is future could be. It is sad beyond belief and I wouldn’t have been surprised if Lloyd had called it quits after the release of the album.
Of course, now we know that LC managed to pull through, how the indie-rock hero, the aspiring superstar transformed into a wise solo singer-songwriter, how he managed to keep his audience by releasing great records and changing his scale.
Because I know that now, it’s far easier for me to listen to Antidepressant, and I really enjoyed the recent reissue. Let’s hope Tapete Records will produce a volume 3 vinyl box with The Negatives/Music in a Foreign Language/Antidepressant/Broken Record.

Shawn C.

Great review Paul. I love Lloyd Cole. I dated a girl in college who was a huge Commotions fan, which was my introduction. Several years later I saw a film, ‘Bad Influence’ I think, which had “Downtown” playing over the credits. Still my favorite Lloyd Cole song. I

Over the last few years I’ve picked up the vinyl editions of ‘Collected Works’ and ‘In New York’ from the Lloyd Cole shop, to complement my CD boxes of both. Both are great sets which are excellently packaged and included Lloyd’s autograph (even a snippet of the “Downtown” lyrics on the New York package, at my request). I’m really looking forward to adding ‘Antidepressant” to my vinyl collection.

Trash

Great review Paul. Really interesting and detailed.

I missed the album at the time – Mr Cole had dropped off my radar a little – so I was intrigued when you announced the album on the site. I picked up the vinyl and actually played it quite a few times over Easter – I’m enjoying it very much. I echo your comment about missing a lyric sheet. He has always had a way with words (I got into Truman Capote because of Rattlesnakes).

Huge thanks to you as I would not have picked up Antidepressant if not for your mention of the release.

P.S. Not wanting to nitpick – actually trying to be helpful – but I think there’s something off about the sentence I’ve quoted below – maybe the word ‘of’ is missing between ‘some’ and ‘the’…not sure… but it doesn’t seem to scan correctly to me. Apologies if it is just me.

‘The title track of the album has that toe-tapping rocky groove prevalent on some the first solo album (think, ‘I Hate To See You Baby Doing That Stuff’) and it’s a great to hear the electric guitars come out – a welcome shift in tone.”

Alan
SDE Reader

I started reading Norman Mailer because of Rattlesnakes, an album which is about as close to perfect as “near-perfect” can be. Along with Don’t Get Weird, two of the greatest albums in my collection.

Unlike many on here, Lloyd never dropped off my radar, seen him regularly in concert since 2003 (still waiting for his April 2020 show in Southend – now Feb 2022) and bought all the albums. Antidepressant I’ve always thought to be one of his lesser albums, maybe due to too many slow tracks in the second half (as touched on in the review), but it’s still a good album and well reviewed here.

James

It seems like an unlikely gateway, but this album was my very first Lloyd Cole album when it came out in 2006. I saw it in a record store (Virgin Megastore in Times Square!), recognized the name, and bought it on a whim. I’ve since bought all the rest of his albums too! It’s a beautiful album: wry, witty, thoughtful, and sometimes quite moving too (I love ‘Rolodex Incident’). Thanks for giving it this attention, Paul!