Certain Songs #957: Lloyd Cole – “Morning is Broken”

Album: Bad Vibes
Year: 1993

Like virtually every other Lloyd Cole album, Bad Vibes was released in the U.K. months before it was released in the U.S., so in this case, a record released October 1993 doesn’t show up on these shores until early Summer 1994, which was actually a pretty good time for a new record by one of my old favorites.

That summer was a huge transition period for me — I was moving from Fresno to Oakland. I’d lived in Fresno my whole life, but I wanted … well, what you want when you move away from your home town, right? And so right when Bad Vibes came out, I was spending the weeknights crashing on Andrea & Suzi’s couch in their apartment near Lake Merritt after working at my new job tracking direct mail responses at the weird Libertarian advertising agency on the ritzy side of the Caldecott Tunnel, and the weekends closing out my life in Fresno.

Which meant a lot of drives back and forth, featuring a lot of “what the hell am I even doing” thinking as I listened to recently acquired CDs like Live Through This, Crooked Rain Crooked Rain, Superunknown and of course, Bad Vibes, which felt like a step up from Don’t Get Weird on Me Babe, if not quite as good as Lloyd Cole, never mind my beloved Commotions albums.

With an album cover that showed Lloyd quite literally being backed into a corner, after having lost his U.S. major label after smaller-than-expected sales of his first two records, and so Bad Vibes mostly abandons the jangly guitar sound that marked his previous albums; experimenting with trippy drum beats & synths even while bringing back Commotions guitar ace Neil Clark back into the fold.

I’m going to assume it’s Clark providing the psychedelic guitar swirls that anchor the opener and best song, “Morning is Broken,” which features a completely melancholy vocal that is buttressed by whom I am going to assume is Matthew Sweet — by now a bigger star — on the utterly lovely chorus.

The sun goes down and now the shadows arise
And morning is broken as you mourn your life
You smile at your neighbors as you lock your doors
You face up the mirror, mister pimp or whore

“You smile at your neighbors as you lock your doors.” That was kind of how I felt as I moved into a new life in a new city: going from a situation where I knew everybody in my building — having adventures with a few of them — to a situation where I only knew my roommates.

It was weird. I remember my first night there, being so glad to the point of tears that there was a SF Giants game on Channel 2 to watch after I got to a home that didn’t yet feel like home after work. Something familiar, to tether the me now to the me that I’d always been. The Giants. Lloyd Cole. And even though “Morning is Broken” was a different kind of Lloyd Cole song than the ones I’d loved for a decade, the vocals and the melody tethered it to the Lloyd Cole that he’d always been.

Which was enough to make “Morning is Broken” one of my favorite of his songs.

“Morning is Broken”

Official video for “Morning is Broken” (short version)

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