TEN near-perfect pop songs in 35 minutes — that’s the way to do a debut album. And they don’t come much stronger than this, as Cole contributes most of the music and his band provides the kind of folk-rock setting where not a note seems out of place.

Despite the reputation of the ’80s as the nadir decade of rock, there was some great stuff around amid the MTV rubble and big-hair metal.

Happily, producer Paul Hardiman had the good sense to turn the tapes on and capture all of Cole and the Commotions’ youthful exuberance without those follies of recording fashion which date so many records from that era.

Cole was studying philosophy at the University of Glasgow when the band formed, so not surprisingly there’s a literary bent to his lyrics. Some sniffed at this at the time as “college rock” and still do, but the truth is if there were more songs as strong as these around in 2005, the state of lyric writing in chart music wouldn’t be quite so laughable.

Besides, Cole’s mentions of The New York Times, Truman Capote, Norman Mailer, Simone de Beauvoir, On the Waterfront and Eve Marie Saint roll off his tongue so easily that they never seem pretentious, and his wry commentaries on the twenty-something rush into adulthood are as crisp and neatly formed as the arrangements.

The band were novices in the studio yet play with a natural balance of restraint and authority, leaving plenty of space for Cole’s voice and the other dominant sound, Neil Clark’s jangling guitar. The liner notes are full of Cole-spotter details from the band: always handy to know that bassist Lawrence Donegan was trying to get Cole to play rhythm guitar like the one found on The Faces’ Debris !

This reissue comes with a bonus CD with concert recordings and B-sides from singles — back when singles still had B-sides — which reveal just how strongly the band was firing.

Songs such as Sea and the Sand and Sweetness — Cole admits that one is better than anything on their second album — deserved a much better fate than being the flip side to an old piece of vinyl.

Still, there is time to right old injustices: here they are now.

Publication: The Courier Mail

Publication date: 14/05/05