I always suspected that Lloyd Cole's "Rattlesnakes" was about the heroine of Joan Didion's semi-autbiographical novel, Play It As It Lays because of the way Cole croons, "her neverborn child still haunts her / as she speeds down the freeway." That is so Didion, from the abortion to the cloverleafs. Even the "rattlesnakes" part ("She says a girl needs a gun these days / Hey on account of all the rattlesnakes") is Didionesque in its paranoid logic. The young Joan Didion -- as pictured on the back of Slouching Toward Bethlehem, cigarette in her bony hand, half a smile on her waif-like face -- is a perfect model for the eternal Lloyd Cole heroine: smart, nervous, and overwrought. "Like Eva Marie Saint in On the Waterfront." Lloyd Cole sings about neurotic girls. And he, of course, is neurotic, too.
So it's almost a relief to find his new album titled Anti Depressant. Finally, Lloyd gets some relief! Don't worry, Cole fans: the Celexa hasn't dulled his creativity. Yet.
Perhaps there are some of you out there unfamiliar with Mr. Cole. Here's the nutshell version: Mr. Cool English Guy of the '80s -- not quite New Wave or even New Romantic, but a real singer-songwriter type, trapped in the body of a young Elvis. Too pretty for his own good, his hair too floppy by half (see: Hugh Grant), he was the kind of guy certain American teenage girls LOVED and most American teenage boys thought was gay. On behalf of all formerly-teenaged girls of America, we hope you boys have grown up by now. Anyway, Lloyd Cole wrote some classic late '80s noir-romantic ditties: "Perfect Skin" ("She's got cheekbones like geometry and eyes like sin"), "Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken" ("If you really want to get straight / Read Norman Mailer / Or get a new tailor"), and the aforementioned "Rattlesnakes" among them.
Anti Depressant is more of the same... thank God. Lloyd's still packing way too many syllables into each line, every so often a zinger of a phrase just grabs you and you remember you liked this guy not just because he has a smooth voice with -- as someone once said of Billie Holiday -- a lump in it, but because the dude can write. As in the title track, when after name-checking No Depression magazine (Lloyd likes alt-country -- who knew?) and Six Feet Under (he makes it work), he sings "First she's gonna tire of my fixations / Then she's gonna tire of my face / I'm gonna need a new affectation / I'm gonna need a new one every day." Sigh.