It's paradox time. Lloyd Cole is a much-talked-about British alternative rocker who calls his new album simply Lloyd Cole, perhaps so we'll know it's his first without his customary band, the Commotions. Yet what immediately draws attention isn't Cole, but his new band, especially producer-drummer Fred Maher, who keeps the music moving at a pointed if often easygoing trot, and guitarist Robert Quine. Quine used to be known for attacks of scabrous noise, but that was when he played punk, most notably for Richard Hell and the Voidoids. Now he supplies background commentary, sharply etched but understated. Cole's voice, meanwhile, murmurs even farther in the background. Is this really "ITALIC "his"] album?
Cole's lyrics once you've found them floating deep within the instrumental mix don't sound happy. He's famous for his almost literary way with words, so his discomfort sometimes comes across with exhilarating clarity. In ''No Blue Skies,'' for instance, he's impatient with a woman he thinks is just ''too well read, too outspoken, too pristine.'' But you get the idea he's obsessed with women who dismay him, women like the one in ''Loveless,'' who's ''crying and pleading and hell just to be with''; she is also, he quickly adds, everything he needs.
Meanwhile it's paradox time again his music comes across as almost reassuring. Producer Maher makes each instrument sound glowing and precise. Put these songs on in the background while you're busy with something else, and you'd imagine lyrics with no hint of any depressing twist. Lloyd Cole seems to live a double musical life; he's obsessive and contemplative. On this album I'm not convinced the two sides ever quite meet. B-