The Cover Doesn't Matter
Upsetter Music, 2000
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/13/2001
Depending on when you really discovered music, the name Richard Lloyd means something different to you. If you grew up on a steady diet of the "new wave" and proto-punk bands of the mid-'70s, then Lloyd is most familiar to you as a founding member of Television. If you're younger than that, then Lloyd is best known to you for his distinct guitar sound which provided a big part of Matthew Sweet's charm. (Listen to the solo on "Sick Of Myself" to understand what I mean.)
However you remember Lloyd, you probably don't think of him as a solo artist - fair enough, since it's been 14 years since Lloyd released a studio solo album. So while calling The Cover Doesn't Matter an album of re-discovery or re-awakening might be correct if you're looking at a timeline, it really isn't an accurate statement to describe Lloyd the musician and songwriter.
Lloyd proudly takes the spotlight as an artist who keeps his sound in the '70s - and it works well for his style of singing and playing. If anything, Lloyd's sound brings back memories of guitar rock - tracks powered by a solid rhythm section (which Lloyd has assembled on this album) and songs you can actually tap your foot to while playing a mean air guitar.
Lloyd might not have one of the most powerful vocal styles in the world, but they fit his songs well. Tracks like "She Loves To Fly," "Strangestrange" and "Torn Shirt" (the last track featuring a killer bass groove from Peter Stuart) fit Lloyd like a glove, keeping the listener riveted on what's blaring from their speakers. "I Thought," a track originally covered by Chris Stamey, almost sounds like Lloyd snatched it from a session with Sweet, but it has his own signature permanently stamped on the melody (thanks to the "stair-step" guitar playing in the chorus).
Surprisingly, the most powerful track on the album isn't the hardest rocker. "Cortege" is a moving tribute to those our hero has lost along the way, taking a certain amount of child-like innocence with them to the next world. Lloyd leaves this track open to much interpretation, or even adaptation to our own lives, but he's created a masterpiece with this one.
Oh, sure, there's an occasional mis-step along the way on The Cover Doesn't Matter. "Raising The Serpent" is almost too filled with double entendres (even if that wasn't Lloyd's intention) that it's almost Spinal Tap-like. (Melody-wise, it's a decent enough track.) But for the most part, The Cover Doesn't Matter is the kind of album that will make the listener wonder why Lloyd has been absent from the solo scene for as long as he has. (One look at Lloyd's web site proves he's been busy throughout the "down time".)
No matter how you remember Lloyd, whether as Sweet's side man or as a core member of Television, The Cover Doesn't Matter offers you the chance to discover Lloyd in his own light... and it's a trip well worth taking.