The best album of the 1980s
Tim Stevens | 09/28/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I'm happily surprised to see this album receiving such high ratings from other reviewers, considering that it's often regarded as one of Cole's weaker offerings (Lloyd himself has described aspects of certain tracks on this album as 'embarrassing'). The sound of the band is very different on this one, compared to the Byrds-like jangling guitars and orchestral background synth of its excellent predecessor, Rattlesnakes. Here we have full-bodied drumming, chunky bass playing and synthesizer lines that drive the melodies, giving a more muscular and satisfying sound. Lloyd has been acclaimed as a lyricist, but it's his ear for melody that really distinguishes his music. He's particularly good at dragging you along a series of rhythmic verses and then inserting an unexpectedly beautiful chorus or bridge: an example is the opening track, Rich, in which the opening couple of horn-led stanzas leave you totally unprepared for the uplifting 'Waste away to Morro Bay' that introduces the chorus.That's not to detract from those lyrics, however. Less wisecracking or loaded with literary references than those of the first album, the words have a simplicity which makes them more personal, without resorting to cliche. 'She looks like Eva Marie-Saint/ In On The Waterfront' (from 'Rattlesnakes') may strike a chord with classic film buffs, but when I hear 'Walking in the pouring rain/ Walking with Jesus and Jane' (Brand New Friend, from this album), I know exactly what Lloyd means: the evocation of the utter joy of being in love hasn't been bettered in a song couplet, not even one by Dylan. My favourite tracks are, firstly, Why I Love Country Music, a song which wraps up a wonderfully, bitterly concise summary of a modern relationship in a dead end, in a wholly appropriate (yet hard-edged) country-guitar motif. The tension before the last verse, represented by the rising octaves of the guitar, is one of Lloyd's greatest achievements. Secondly, Brand New Friend, in my opinion his greatest song, introduces us to a relationship which has clearly gone horribly wrong, yet tantalisingly, we're never told why. All we know is that the narrator (and I think this term is right, as the song is like an ultra-compact short story) has hit the skids with Jane, Jesus's equivalent in his eyes, and that he desperately needs someone to whom he can express his grief, Jane having been not only his lover but also his soulmate, his best friend, until now. Jane is evoked in a few details ('Jane was in her turtleneck'), as is the intensity and uncertainty of the relationship ('we swore and lied that we'd tie ourselves to the railway line'). You reach the drumroll towards the climax of the song, waiting for the denouement in which the singer makes it up with his idol, and instead you're exposed to a repetition of 'a brand new friend', which fades out, leaving you with the realisation that this relationship is really over. (It's no coincidence that both of these songs feature Jane, whom Lloyd has revealed in an interview to be a real person from his past.)If you've ever been in a relationship that's not worked out, buy this album. If you've never been in a relationship, and wonder whether the risk is worth the potential pain, buy this album. If you're in a stable relationship, buy this album. It beats almost anything else produced in the eighties for its honesty, and quite apart from this, its sheer listenability. Musically, lyrically, and in every other way, it's brilliant. Do yourself a favour, and buy this album."
Almost as good as Rattlesnakes...
jnace | Shaker Heights, OH United States | 07/10/2004
(4 out of 5 stars)
"and in some ways, even better.This second album from Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, following 1984's stunning debut "Rattlesnakes", does not fall prey to the sophomore album jinx. While Cole's subject matter is always brooding and focused on the dark side of human relationships, "Easy Pieces" has a darker tone than "Rattlesnakes", but still provides perfect memorize the lyrics and sing along pop songs.The songs represented from this album on the greatest hits collection "1984-1989" are not the best songs from this album. With lyrics like "did you miss her much/well hey/you never gave her too much thought" from "Rich" and "Jane is fine/always fine/we're unhappy most of the time" which starts off "Why I Love Country Music", you are missing out if the only tunes you know from this CD are from the collection.The only negative is that the album does taper off somewhat toward the end and does not conclude with anything nearly as impactful as "Are You Ready to be Heartbroken?" which closes the debut album. The three bonus tracks at the end of the import CD are decent but it is clear that they were not completely polished and weren't necessary additions to the original album (even though one is included on the "1984-1989" collection).The first several songs on this CD are equal to, if not better, than anything on "Rattlesnakes", it just isn't as consistently strong start to finish. While Cole had moments of abject brilliance on future releases like "Jennifer She Said" from 1987's "Mainstream" and "Weeping Wine" from 1991's "Don't Get Weird on Me Babe", none of his subsequent records had the cohesiveness or sustained quality of the first two records.If you don't own this, and are a Lloyd Cole fan, pay the premium to add the import CD to your collection. Your life will be richer for it."
Cut me down
domingo garrido | Spain | 12/13/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I've seen this man three times in concerts in Spain, the only thing I won't forgive him is that he never sang "Cut me down", the best song of the 80's. "Easy pieces" is as good as "Rattlesnakes", don't doubt it."