“My kind of music appeals to journalists and critics,” said English rocker Lloyd Cole, whose first solo album has just been released by Capitol Records.

Cole, who made three albums with a group called the Commotions, sings dark, folkish music that’s riddled with pithy cynicism — in the literate style of Bob Dylan and Lou Reed. Despite a sizable following in Europe, he’s not exactly a household world in this country. His U.S. audience has been limited to the alternative-music set.

“My music is not standard radio fare,” said Cole with a laugh during a recent interview.

The new album has been getting more radio airplay than his Commotions albums, but Cole said that hasn’t translated yet into big record sales. Where the average Commotions album sold only sold 50,000 in the United States, he said this one may double that. “But that’s still a drop in the bucket,” said Cole, who will appear with Michael Penn at the Wiltern Theatre on July 20.

Forthright and outspoken, Cole doesn’t coat his comments with the usual public-relations gloss and self-serving hype. He said his singing isn’t “pleasing to my ear” and says all music videos are “killing music.”

Cole, 29, admitted he wasn’t much of a musician when he started his career in England in the early ’80s. “I wasn’t a very good singer and I could only write some real simple tunes on the guitar. I learned music by making music with the band.”

But after three albums between 1984 and ’88, he was fed up with being in a band. “I was tired of band democracy and making decisions dependent on them,” he said. “I needed to be in control of my own life.”

Musical stagnation, too, was a factor: “Our best album was the first one (1984’s “Rattlesnakes”). The second one wasn’t as good as the first — and so on. We did one thing and we did it well. We’d expanded upon it as far as possible. If we had a great idea for the next album I might have stayed, but we didn’t have any great ideas.”

Cole didn’t only leave the Commotions — he left London, moving to New York and reassembling his life. “My whole life had disintegrated in London,” he recalled. “A long-term relationship ended too. I was way down when I moved to New York but things got better. The biggest thing that happened to me is that I got married at the end of last year. My main goal is to make this marriage last.”

His musical goals, though, are less ambitious. “I’m not sure I deserve to be a great success — or if I want that burden. A small amount of success is enough for me. As long as I can make the records I want to make, without commercial compromises, I’ll be happy.”

GRAPHIC: Photo, Lloyd Cole: “A small amount of success is enough for me.” JOSE GALVEZ / Los Angeles Times

Publication: Los Angeles Times

Publication date: 10/06/90