Cleaning Out The Ashtrays
4-CD box with b-sides and rarities out of Coles archives
He hated parts of his work to be out of print, writes Lloyd Cole honest and uncompromising in a preface to this labour of love. And downloads do not count as in print for him. Many of the almost 60 songs assembled here are obscure b-sides of not very successful singles; others are alternative mixes of familiar tunes, while demos and live versions were not included.
The result is four long Cole albums along the path of his solo records since 1990. And even if he claims not to be able to remember many events from those days there has hardly ever been a musician, who has collected such missing links so accurately and with so much detail, and has pleasurably and sarcastically recounted the bizarre story of his career on numerous booklet pages. Cole has not forgotten anything.
In fact the history of his oeuvre is one of the saddest, even in the context of a bizarre business full of unusual and amazing twists and turns but Lloyd Cole does not show any self-pity in the face of absurdity and injustice. Since his move to New York and the ultimately futile attempt to become a rock musician (which was later self-ironically and heartbreakingly described in Tried To Rock) the early success did not return. Only one album, Dont Get Weird On Me Babe of 1991, had been fully realized.
Most of the time Cole was looking for studios, producers and, above all, for the first single when the second one had already been decided on, and for second singles when the first one had already been found. His record company A&R executive, for instance, found fault with Love Story (1995), because there were too many babes and babies in the lyrics. In 1998 Coles contract with Universal was dissolved. In 2001 a French label facilitated the release of a box with four CDs, among them the excellent odds-and-ends collection Etc.
Since then Cole has become something like the king of the addenda, a giant of the remains, of the wonderfully incidental. In this sense Cleaning Out The Ashtrays, including such memorable occasional jobs like Chelsea Hotel No. 2 (for a Cohen tribute sampler) and the long version of Pay For It, with Dylans Most Of The Time, Lou Reeds Vicious and some mixes by Stephen Street with whom he cooperated only once is the great lost work of Lloyd Cole. It is not a novel, but a collection of short stories like the ones by Raymond Carver, whom he admires.