Turning his back on his primal rock roots, Lloyd Cole went on to epitomise the Anglo singer/songwriter epoch for the turn of the century. But after more than a decade in the wilderness Cole is back on boogie street with a thumpin new band record and is hitting Becks Music Box on Thursday, February 17, with his Small Ensemble. Julian Tompkin reports.
The eternally affable Lloyd Cole is polite in his fatigue; apologising for his waning attention span, and the couple of red wines that have kept him company through a long night of interviews to promote his return to Australia.
A regular to our stages as well as our bars and golf courses Coles return to Australia this time, however, is anything but regular, for it marks the first time the great man is touring with a band in a decade. Not only that; he just so happens to be touring a god-damn rocknroll record the very racket which made him one of the new wave stars of the 1980s with his short-lived band The Commotions.
Recorded in the wake of two extremely solitary records in Music In A Foreign Language (2003) and Antidepressant (2006), Broken Record captures Lloyd in full flight backed by no less than nine musicians and was recorded over ten manic days in New England.
It wasnt meant to be, Cole answers of whether Broken Record was a direct reaction to the drawn out, solitary recording of his last two albums, but it certainly made it apparent to me I could see no good reason to go back to that other methodology. Which isnt to say I wish I hadnt made them, as Antidepressant was a natural expansion of the album before it, and I think it needed to be made just to close that chapter. Music In A Foreign Language, for me, was also very, very difficult not as difficult as Antidepressant but a difficult and solitary record to make; not the most fun but musically still probably my favourite record. Its the record I am probably the happiest with out of all the records I have made.
Just because it wasnt that much fun to make doesnt bother me; musicians especially seem to pay far too much attention to how fun it is to do something rather than the quality of the work thats created in the end. I am quite happy to suffer or not have the greatest time if I know its going to turn out the way I want it to turn out. But [Broken Record] was designed to be very different to those records. Broken Record was a definite risk but I was willing to take it. For the tendays we were in the studio it could have gone terrible; we could have failed to make the budget; failed to make the deadlines.
But fail they did not. On the contrary, Broken Record has reinvigorated interest in Cole; whose career had drifted into a discerning niche over the last decade. And the fact the record was partly funded by his loyal fans (through pre-ordering the record before a note had even been recorded) makes it all the more sweet for a man who has threatened to turn his back on songwriting more than once in recent years.
But Broken Record hasnt been received so fondly in all quarters. Although hes now called America home for more than 20 years, many of Coles natives back in Britain are making noise about the albums Americanised sound.
I dont think any more of less than it did before, Lloyd answers when questioned as to whether America is finally permeating his songwriting. There are a few phrases here and there I have been using American phrases; I have been saying on account of instead of because my whole songwriting life, because I like the way it sounded on Bruce Springsteen records.
I remember doing a song in 1993 I think where I said you can kiss my ass in the song and I remember a bunch of British people being really offended that I would use American terminology. And I used the term stupid ass thing on this record and another British person was like ah, you need to get back to your British roots. And Im like I dont have any fucking British roots. I have been in America for 20 years, and the lexicon of my songs may have been affected! But I think whats different on this record is the American musicians outnumber the Brits considerably.
Following a trend of his past few records, Lloyd again digs deep on Broken Record to question whether the art of song remains valid in a world where music is often little more than a cheap soundtrack to a visual sensory overload. Thankfully, for the just-turned 50-year-old, the diagnosis is looking optimistic.
I still accept that there could be an end of the line for me being creative within that format and I am willing to accept that most people dry out at some point, Cole concludes of the art of song.
I think the question that people who have been working in song for a long time sometimes ask is is it worthwhile, and I think you have to ask that. And when I think about that I invariably come away positive. A song can be incredibly trivial something like Da Doo Ron Ron.
Da Doo Ron Ron; well it doesnt mean anything and yet it creates such power and such a massive amount of joy. And I like to think of it in terms of it has created the joy; the song is a thing like a sculpture of a painting. Its a work of art that somebody did and it has a life of its own once its out there in the world. So for me the idea of creating these things the idea that these little things are floating around in the ether but creating a great deal of joy, or solace I think the idea of a song is still a wonderful thing.
Publication: X-press magazine
Publication date: 12/02/11