Rykodisc Records, 1995
REVIEW BY: Alison Bellach
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 05/15/1999
It isn't often that I have been attracted so strongly to a concept album, especially one with such a cheesy title. But, I got past it here… I really got past it.
Love Story is widely considered by many fans of Lloyd Cole to be his greatest. Most site the coherency of theme as well as the overall greatness of the album. All pieces on this album contribute to the impression that Cole is an artist who has perfected his craft. Of course, this isn't your typical love story - it's love done Lloyd Cole style.
The album begins with "Trigger Happy," a simplistic look at the beginning of a relationship; it can be related to that early infatuation stage that most couples experience. In fact, it begins with sentiments that remind one of this feeling: "I love your head / I love the way you hold your head / 'cause you're young, and you know it…" This is Cole showing his stuff, backed by soft guitar and bass. It gives one the feeling of overwhelming joy and contentment (sort of like Meg Ryan feels when she is riding her bike with her eyes closed in City Of Angels…); very much like the beginning of a relationship.
The next song, "Sentimental Fool," shows that a relationship quickly can turn to discontentment due to the unrealistic way people see each other during the initial infatuation stage. Cole is in a bar, singing to the bartender: "The more I learn the less I know / could you make mine straight Absolut? / The more I fail the less I try / ask not of me the reason why … the woman I love is not content / the life I made, it ain't what I meant…"
Suddenly, though, things seem to clear up when people make their intentions clear in the midst of what seems to be the end of a relationship. This is seen in "I Didn't Know That You Cared." So, things go a little awry in a great way … "Love Ruins Everything" - that is, love changes the drunken grump into a romantic idiot! "Hey, hey, hey / look at me now / I'm unrecognizable / My trademark frown / has grown into the strangest easy smile / And oh, my, my / where did I go wrong? / Ask all my drunken friends... / "who's going to carry us home? / who's going to drink 'til the morning? / who's going to carry us home? / love ruined everything."" Gosh, he had to go fall in love, and now all of the friends have lots a companion. This is one of my favorite songs on the album - it's giddy and matter of fact, and this contrasts so well with the title that I have to smile each time I listen to it.
But NO! Even though they have had this wonderful revelation, she leaves! Again! For another man!!!!! This time the results are more dramatic… it is followed by major depression. "Baby" chronicles this: "She said not to call / said it would be best for all concerned / if I just all but disappear / But she loves you best / and I love her nonetheless / so I just listen to the voice on the machine, singing…"
Sigh, this is getting to be traumatic for me.
Why? Because it gets worse. He sings a little ditty ("Be There") to the new guy… and then she MARRIES the new guy. Argh. She had this wonderfully sensitive man and now she's marrying someone else?! It's a crime, I tell you!! (Yes, I get a little personally involved in my music.) "Well, they were married in June / she was gone before the leaves were even turning / she said "Well, I knew he was a fool, but somehow I / thought my welfare concerned him." / Must the one always have to change / whilst the other must always remain? / Must the cards all be dealt facing down?" Yes, this is truly an "Unhappy Song," even though it sounds so bright and chipper. That makes it all the more bitter.
"Live Lovers Do" chronicles a list of failed relationships after the "one." Once again, it's cheery, happy, characteristic (?) Cole: happy in the face of adversity of any kind, especially the relationship type.
But, he finally starts to own up to everything on "Happy For You." "Lay your head upon my shoulder / let it rest there for a while / I guess that I'm still good for something / once in a while / And if you need someone to talk to / just give a call I'll be around / and if you want me to avoid you / just say the word…"
In the end, though, he never gets over her. "For Crying Out Loud," the last track on the album, makes it clear that all of the apparent good feelings, and the attempts to run away (like the suggestion to live on a farm in "Let's Get Lost," the second to last track) don't cover the fact that she was his one and only. "I took 15 years / to break your spell / I loved you then / I love you still / I wake up cold / I wake up wet / my body weak / my mind is spent / I fill my days / I pay my rent / and I have no need / of electric light / 'cause I dream the same / dream every night…"
This album is one of my favorites by Cole. Not only is it an excellent example of his "sensitive" mentality, but it also seems very true. Too often, people who write music stick people into stereotypes when they create their characters: a woman who has been wronged by her man, a man who has been wronged by his woman, a guy who just wants to get "jiggy", a woman in the same position. Not often does a songwriter make an honest attempt to portray the relationship as something real, as something personal, as something which (s)he has experienced. Cole doesn't place blame… well, not until the end. And I blame him for making such a tragic CD! I need counseling after this dang review!!