In 1984 Lloyd Cole and The Commotions released ‘Rattlesnakes.’ At the time Cole was studying philosophy and his knowingly pretentious lyrics name checked icons of old. ‘She looks like Eve Marie Saint in on the waterfront. She reads Simone de Beauvoir in her American circumstance. She’s less than sure if her heart has come to stay in San Jose and her never born child haunts her as she speeds down the freeway.’ This literate and imaginative imagery set to beautiful melody became a ‘student bedsit classic.’ Today it remains one of my favourite albums of all time. Releasing two more albums with The commotions, who disbanded in 1989, Cole moved to New York and has continued to record solo albums since. The singer has recently released a new album ‘Broken Record,’ which was financed by his loyal fans. If I had known I would have chipped in myself!

Tonight he is playing at Royal Northern Manchester College of Music to an expectant seated audience accompanied by his small ensemble Mark Schwaber and Matt Cullen. A very early start time sees me arrive slightly late and miss ‘Perfect Skin and ‘Brand New Friend.’ Still there are many more treats in store in a set punctuated by songs old and new. Pretty much a sell out crowd, in these hard times Cole makes it clear he has a new record to sell and will sign just about anything! Later I witness many of his loyal fans take him up on his offer.

A new favourite for me is his latest single ‘Writers Retreat,’ a beefed up piece of alt-country. From the same album comes ‘Why in the World,’ in which he says Hasta luego to his modern guy. Throughout the set he tends to concentrate on his first and last pieces of work. A beautiful version of ‘Are you ready to be heartbroken,’ has us all as enthralled as Camera Obscura. He then sings two songs written by sixties cult folk musician Tim Hardin adding ‘I wish they were mine.’ From 2006’s album ‘Antidepressant,’ which focuses on the reality of living in middle aged, middle class America comes ‘NYC Sunshine.’ His witty poetry strikes a chord. ‘No longer angry. No longer young. No longer driven to distraction, not even by Scarlett Johansson.’ ‘Man Overboard,’ sounds like a Highland shanty but shows that he hasn’t lost his love for namedropping. ‘So she channels Garbo, carves a halo of smoke.’ ‘Rattlesnakes,’ is greeted with hushed reverence by the crowd and this is followed by ‘2CV.’ By this time the crowd are whispering ‘I was simply losing precious time underneath the deepest London sun.’ Always the King of the one liner, Cole declares ‘I love the way football has completely destroyed the idea of a Bentley.’ ‘Early town,’ is about a Los Angeles full of cocaine and self belief. Mid period Cole is then represented by ‘Like Lovers Do.’ He shows he still knows how to insert a lasting image into your mind with ‘Undressed,’ ‘The coolest thing I ever saw was you sitting there smoking my cigarettes. You were naked on the bare stone floor.’ A mandolin led version of ‘Lost Weekend,’ ends the set perfectly.

A restrained and reverend evening; Cole’s tenure overseas has pushed him towards warm Americana which is imbued with delicate, intricate strings. With crescendos of harmony his ensemble back him up beautifully. This is an evening to be treasured by fans old and new. Thoughtful musings are provided by a songwriter whose talent is desperately missed by his home country. Are you ready to be heartbroken? – Thankfully not by a disappointing performance from this eighties icon.

Publication: Subba Cultcha

Publication date: 28/10/10