Back in the early 80s Lloyd Cole started releasing records just as essential to any clinically depressed owners record collection as The Smiths. And while Morrisseys bi-curous melancholy wit owed much to such diverse influences as Oscar Wilde, kitchen sink drama A Taste of Honey or The New York Dolls – buttoned up hetero Lloyd drew from chic French existentialists, 50s classic On The Waterfront and Leonard Cohen. When Lloyd mentioned Norman Mailer or Truman Capote you just knew hed actually spent last summer reading them (phew- saved us the trouble then.) While Morrissey reflected on life wistfully/bitterly from a safe distance, Lloyd was chronicling it from the inside, a bemused participant. Landmark album release Rattlesnakes (with fine Scottish band The Commotions) shimmered with stylish writing, divine melodies and stunning production. Morrissey and Cole were the brave new world of English indie pop. We loved them.
Curiously whereas practically everyone under 25 making worthwhile music nowadays cites The Smiths as an influence on their Myspace page Lloyd Coles contribution has been somewhat overlooked. This is particularly ironic when comparing their more recent efforts. While Mozz sings about being in a gang Lloyds apple-mac home produced album Music in a Foreign Language details a crisis of family life.
So, here we are, June 2008 and Lloyd Coles first ever gig here in Lincoln and necessitated nothing more than voice/acoustic guitars/ bottled water/towel oh and and a very big warehouse-sized back catalogue of superbly crafted songs. That he was technically limited in his playing mattered little to the 400 strong audience who were clearly on his side from the moment hed made his way on stage. Sometimes intimate music doesnt withstand bright lights or even a reverent crowd and Lloyd clearly had (unnecessary) reservations on the appeal of his early selections. It was fine, with some cracking choices but it was after the interval when there was clearly less inhibition and more confidence in the material. The song performances then became deeply luminous. They burned with poignancy, wit and feeling. Killer lines made you catch your breath afresh. This was masterclass writing – and made you wonder where were all the fine young singer-songwriters from round here. Top stuff. As he finished the night Lloyd assured us that it was a misconception that he was particularly miserable or even angry man and he had in fact few regrets about his life. This is all nice to know – but afterward it did make me wonder if he had actually been a bitter, fucked up, burned out, egomaniac musician, then perhaps more bands would be offering acclaim. Now thats irony.
Oh, his Tom Waits impersonation was pretty good – come to think of it, a duet between them would be a fine thing – in Lincoln, please. Till then, thanks for finally coming to our town. It was worth the wait.
Publication date: 05/06/08