Blame it on David Bowie. That’s Lloyd Cole’s reason for being such a chameleon in the last decade. Cole burst into view in the mid-’80s with his band the Commotions, playing thinking-man’s pop that won raves and immediate cult status. But Cole, now minus the Commotions, went through various musical permutations that were only resolved by coming full circle with the recent pop-flavored “Love Story.” The disc has been praised everywhere from Billboard to People magazine.

“I felt that if you were a songwriter and an artist, then you had to constantly reinvent yourself,” says Cole, who plays the Paradise tonight. “Blame it on Bowie. He did that from album to album and he was the most important artist of the ’70s when I was growing up. And Elvis Costello also did that.

“I convinced myself that maybe I really was an artist and that experimenting was what artists were supposed to do,” the British-bred Cole adds in a phone chat from his current home in New York’s West Village. “I feel now that I should have been more secure with what I do naturally – and I should hone that.”

Cole hones it beautifully on “Love Story,” through such dreamy, boyish pop tunes as “Sentimental Fool” (“the more I learn, the less I know,” he sings), “Trigger Happy” (“because you’re young, there ain’t nothing you can’t do”) and “Let’s Get Lost,” where he daffily advises someone to go work on a farm and “get a pair of cheap skates.”

Cole’s shiny, guitar-based music is fun and thoughtful at the same time – even if it hasn’t been embraced by the self-appointed trendmeisters of MTV. “I have occasionally coincided with what is fashionable – and I’ve been at loggerheads with what is fashionable in my career,” he says. “That’s the way it goes. You have to accept that you’re working in a nasty, horribly tight structure in the music business.

“In the Commotions, we were considered an alternative group,” he adds. “But unless your music has a grungy-type guitar, it’s not called alternative anymore. But surely Leonard Cohen with just an acoustic guitar is a lot more dangerous than the Smashing Pumpkins.”

Tonight’s Paradise show is the last date of Cole’s tour, so look for a barn-burner. “This is the best tour I’ve done,” he says. “We brought out 35 songs to play – and we’ve done all of them at one time or another. But I’m ready for a break.”

Publication: The Boston Globe

Publication date: 01/12/1995