Lloyd Cole unleashes inner rocker in new album Standards

Thursday, August 08, 2013

After a period of acoustic folk, Lloyd Cole has unleashed his inner rocker again on his latest album. Best known for his work with The Commotions, Lloyd Cole is still evolving. People in Ireland and Britain don’t realise they are not at the centre of everybody’s universe in terms of culture
By Ed Power
Lloyd Cole has changed his mind. “I used to think that rocking out was undignified for a man of a certain age,” he says. “And now I’ve reconsidered.”

The Massachusetts-based 52-year-old is discussing his new album, Standards. For the first time in over a decade he is plugging in and, to his surprise, letting his inner rocker off the leash.

“I was writing these songs and I thought, ‘You know this could make for a rock and roll record’. I decided it might be fun to try all of that again.”

It’s been a while. Following the break up in 1989 of Cole’s band, the Commotions, he released two upbeat solo records. Instead of a new beginning, the LPs marked the end of a phase of his creative life. He was a rocker no more. Ever since he has worked hard at reinventing himself as a folk artist. Now, in middle age, he’s going back to first principles. He seems slightly giddy just thinking about it.

“One of the problems is the cost of touring,” he says of his acoustic direction. “You need to be drawing a certain crowd to pay for a full band. Usually it’s just me and a guitar nowadays.”

He is still scarred by memories of his post-Commotions band, the Negatives. He is proud of what the group achieved musically. Financially, however, it was a disaster.

“Everyone made money off the Negatives’ tour except me,” he laughs. “I wasn’t drawing the sort of crowds that could justify bringing a band that size on the road. I think I may have just about broke even. You can’t do a tour simply to break even. I had kids to feed.”

In this part of the world, Cole will be forever in the shadow of his early hits. Fronting the Commotions, he penned such sublime, literate pop songs as ‘Perfect Skin’ and ‘Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?’. He doesn’t have a problem with this. He loves those tracks as much as his audience.

“In the UK but especially in Ireland, I think, I am known for the Commotions’ stuff. That’s not the case in the rest of the world. The Commotions never broke through in America. There, I’m known for my first two solo albums. It’s the same if you go to, say, Germany or Scandinavia.”

The Commotions blazed brightly, then burned out. A sensitive sort, Cole really wasn’t designed for the pressures of life in a major label band. The group would fly to England for a concert, then to Paris for a TV appearance, then back to England for another show. Too young to realise they could say no, by the end of the 1980s, all five members were exhausted. Burnout was inevitable.

Not the nostalgic type, it seemed unlikely that Cole would ever put the band back together. So there was surprise when he did just that in 2004, playing to a packed Vicar Street in Dublin.

“If that had been a one-off we wouldn’t have been able to afford it,” he says. “Fortunately, we received an offer from the Hammersmith Odeon, so we were able to do it. You need to have a certain level of backing before you can do these things. Otherwise you’ll just end up losing money.”

He isn’t the type to have regrets. However, he feels that the Commotions were pressurised into putting out too much music too quickly. You can hear this, he feels, on their second album, 1985’s Easy Pieces.

“We thought it was great at the time,” he says. “We had no idea it wasn’t as good as Rattlesnakes [their debut]. We never had a second to step back and consider it. And of course you need more than a second. You need a year or so. When you are in the rock and roll machine you don’t have that opportunity. It’s only later, when you look back, that you see what happened.”

If he was still living off the fumes of the Commotions he would probably give up, he says. Fortunately that is not the case. Though his fanbase in Ireland and Britain may be diminished, elsewhere it’s a different story.

“My last album, Broken Record, had a bigger impact in Germany than anything I had done previously. It got the lead review in German Rolling Stone. That was the first time that had happened. If I felt my career was in decline everywhere it might be different for me. I feel I am still chipping away.

“It is hard for people in Ireland and Britain not to realise that they are not the centre of everybody’s universe in terms of art and culture. But that’s not where it is at for me. I was just thinking of this the other day. I left Britain in 1988. Two more years and I’ll have been away for more than half my life. What I’m getting at, I suppose, is that my career still being active has been dependent on me being moderately successful in lots of places. If that wasn’t the case I wouldn’t be talking to you.”

With one eye always on the bottom line, Cole is unsure as to how he will tour the new LP. He’d like to plug in and crank the volume up. Finances may not allow it, however. He is considering a middle way. “My son is a musician and has his own band. I might steal him away for a few shows. We’ll see. It all depends on how the album performs. It could do well, it might vanish without a trace. You never can tell.”

Link to original article online

Publication: Irish Examiner

Publication date: 08/08/2013