Some albums coalesce around a title. Lloyd Cole’s new album is one such record. Guesswork mirrors the uncertainty of the world as you enter your third act. Guesswork is consistent with a record whose protagonists seem reluctant to venture confidently beyond the moment. In terms of minutes, it’s his longest, but in terms of songs, it’s shorter than any of his previous eleven solo albums (fourteen if you count those he made with The Commotions). Guesswork is also his shortest in terms of total words sung. This might come as a surprise to those who primarily remember Lloyd for the precocious literary pop dispatches of 1984’s Rattlesnakes, the debut album which earned him an unlikely place alongside Wham! and Duran Duran in the following year’s Smash Hits/Panini sticker book. However, for other onlookers who have followed his progress in the interim – taking in the muscular urban art-rock of his solo debut X (1990), the delicate digital folk of Music In A Foreign Language (2004) and a succession of electronic albums culminating in 2015’s 1D – that may be less so.
Mostly constructed in his Massachusetts attic space, Lloyd’s first “songs” album since 2013’s universally acclaimed Standards sees him finally create a (mostly) electronic setting for his voice. “For a while,” he says, “it wasn’t clear if the project would ever come to fruition. I’ve always listened to electronic music, ever since hearing albums like [Iggy Pop’s] The Idiot and [David Bowie’s] Low. There’s a simplicity to those records – even the gentle songs are very brutally projected. As I’ve got older, I’ve become more attracted to lyrics that suit that delivery. Ageing is brutal and lends itself to a less ornamented way of writing.”