Don’t expect a big commotion from Lloyd Cole.
The British singer-songwriter says he has, once and for all, renounced rock ‘n’ roll and the harsher sounds of his previous band, the Commotions.
On his new solo album, “Don’t Get Weird On Me, Babe,” Cole devotes an entire side to a selection of string-laden pop ballads orchestrated by veteran conductor Paul Buckmaster, who has worked with Elton John and the late Miles Davis.
“There’s only so much rock ‘n’ roll in one person, and I think I’ve about run out of it,” Cole said in a phone interview from Lisbon, Portugal, during a break in his tour.
Cole, 30, is currently on tour with former Commotions Blair Cowan (on keyboards) and Neil Clarke (on guitar), plus drummer Dan McCarroll and bassist Robert Vickers, a former member of the Go-Betweens. The around-the-world trek includes a concert tomorrow night at 8 at the Moore Theater.
Though not a household name in the states, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, playing a literate and folkish brand of rock ‘n’ roll, enjoyed a good following in the U.S. in the ’80s among college radio listeners. In 1984 the group recorded its biggest hit, “Perfect Skin.”
After the group’s breakup in the late ’80s, Cole moved from London to New York and began a period of soul-searching.
“It was never easy being in a band,” he admitted. “But my main concern was to get out of London because my emotional life and my business life had disintegrated. The idea of putting an ocean between me and my past seemed like a good thing.”
The brooding Scotsman has since faced the challenge of redefining his sound without leaving his old fans behind.
“Don’t Get Weird On Me, Babe,” released in early October, is a real departure from previous recordings, despite its bouncy and rocking first single, “She’s a Girl, and I’m a Man.” What makes the album so different is the second half’s uncharacteristically lush sound, recorded with full orchestra.
Before he started the project, Cole wasn’t sure if Capitol Records would go for the idea.
“They were bemused and skeptical,” he said.
Once the project was approved, Cole hooked up with Buckmaster, a studio wizard he held in awe.
“He’s got about six brains instead of one. I think you have to be like that to do what he does,” Cole said. “He seemed to like the idea of what I was trying to do.”
When two other studios were unavailable, it was Buckmaster’s idea to use the Capitol studios in L.A. where Frank Sinatra recorded sessions with Nelson Riddle.
“There was a good vibe to it,” Cole said. “The atmosphere for orchestral recordings was very good indeed.”
The result is an album that celebrates classic American pop, floating along like an old Glen Campbell record. Cole, in fact, sees the wistful “There For Her” (in which two lovers are separated by great distance) as a tribute of sorts to Campbell’s interpretation of the Jim Webb classic “Wichita Lineman.”
It’s obvious from the songs on “Don’t Get Weird On Me, Babe” that Cole is looking at rock through his rearview mirror.
“The tour has developed into a swan song. It’s sort of my farewell to rock ‘n’ roll,” he said.
Preview — Lloyd Cole, pop concert, tomorrow night at 8 at the Moore Theater, 1932 Second Ave. Tickets $12; 628-0888.
Publication: Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Publication date: 29/11/91