Saturday, August 5, 2017

Certain Songs #951: Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – “Mr. Malcontent” | Medialoper

Album: Mainstream
Year: 1987

A waste of space and alcohol.

What an utterly cutting and amazing insult that is. And it’s just one of of the many many reasons that “Mr. Malcontent” is my favorite Lloyd Cole song.

The spring and summer of 1988 has always been officially one of the worst periods of my life, as I was dealing with a myriad of weirdness. I had a relationship and a band both end, for somewhat related reasons; I was struggling to deal with increased responsibility at my job; I was living completely alone for the first time ever.

And so, during my absolutely darkest moments — those early-morning post-carousing stumbles back from the Oly or the Blue or Livinstones to my apartment on the corner of Wishon & McKinley convinced that everybody else in the world was having more fun than I was — “a waste of space and alcohol” absolutely resonated with me.

Especially when it was accompanied by an absolutely gorgeous guitar/piano duel between Neil Clarke & Blair Cowan, who by this time could weave in and out of each other’s space with utter ease and grace.

A waste of space and alcohol
Drinking rain and eating soil
And slogans off the wall
Cannot express himself at all

And so led by Clark & Cowan, “Mr. Malcontent” built and built and built without ever feeling cluttered until it hit the heights of despair.

Cut off my nose to spite my face
Sell my soul to out my grace
Or should I laugh or should I cry
As I become all I despise?

This right here is rock bottom. AndAnd then something awesome happens. The song breaks down to just bass & drums for a second and Mr. Malcontent figures out how to conquer his despair: with art. Art that he loves. In his case, the film “My Beautiful Laundrette.”

“My Beautiful Laundrette” is my beautiful escape
“My Beautiful Laundrette” is my beautiful escape

And then over Cowan’s pipe organ and accompanied by a cackle by Cole, Neil Clark starts taking off while Cole just starts rambling about not getting ahead, but by this time I’m listening to Clark’s guitar solo, which is hotter than a forest fire and end being uplifting and redeeming every single time I’ve heard it.

This might not have been Lloyd Cole’s intent behind the song, but it was what I took from it.

And so, during the spring & summer of 1988, “Mr. Malcontent” became my beautiful escape, a song to sing through the tears that helped stop them.

Fan-made video for “Mr. Malcontent”

Early version of “Mr. Malcontent” performed live, 1986

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