Certain Songs #958: Lloyd Cole – “Past Imperfect”

Album: The Negatives
Year: 2000

I’ve never been quite sure whether this record should be credited to just Lloyd Cole or Lloyd Cole & The Negatives, and all these years later, the internet is split on the subject, depending on where you look.

Either way, one thing is for sure: The Negatives is the best record that Lloyd Cole has made since Mainstream, and it probably wasn’t a coincidence that it was made in a band situation.

And you can hear it from the opening track, the cleverly titled “Past Imperfect,” which turns out to be one of his greatest songs about aging.

Over a pair of guitars spiraling in and out of each other, Lloyd combines two of his favorite subjects, writing and aging, writing about aging.

Excuse me, could I use your pen
I have mislaid my own
Somewhere out here in space and time
Between this place and home
Maybe she lies on the subway platform
Forsaken and forlorn
All of this and more and that’s not all
I can’t recall

“Past Imperfect” builds slowly — a couple more guitars come after a couple of verses, one throwing out a crying hook and the other almost crunching underneath, as Lloyd confesses that his memory isn’t quite what it used to be.

I can’t recall
precise coordinates
I can’t recall
Entire relationships
I can’t recall
The colour of her eyes
Or the feeling of her skin
Pressing against mine
I can’t recall

Or maybe he’s just lived so much that a lot of things have gotten lost.

“Past Imperfect”

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