If Lloyd Cole was less worried about depressing his listeners on his third album, he also seemed determined to stir them up, adopting various personas in his songs, from the lover who tattoos himself with the name Jennifer only to find that the ink lasts longer than the relationship in "Jennifer She Said" (a U.K. Top 40 hit) to Sean Penn. There were a few song narrators who seemed close to the singer himself, and they sounded just as discontented. There was little to alleviate the vitriol in the music, which was unusually muted, and long before the end Cole had begun to sound like a crank. The album's saving grace was "Hey Rusty," a song with a Springsteen-like theme and a U2-like musical track. If there were more songs this coherent, specific, and moving, Mainstream might have ranked with Cole's first two albums. ~ William Ruhlmann
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