Lloyd Cole is a cheeseball. Plain and simple. How else do you account for strings (!) on his second release, Don’t Get Weird On Me, Baby (Capitol), and his Bobby Darin swagger throughout.
After having conquered the UK leading his own band, The Commotions, Lloyd decided to strike out on his own. Having been lauded as one of the freshest singer/songwriters to emerge in the early eighties and having released three superb LPs and A Best Of, Lloyd moved to New York, married an American girl and released his first collection of solo material in 1990.
Having met with unanimous approval, he toured, and then relaxed a bit before commencing work on his latest effort. Well, marriage, touring, and living in the West Village must suit ol’ Lloyd quite well because he’s delivered a corker. It is even better than his debut. It is a confident and mature look at life and love with all the pain and detail presented by a man we’ve come to expect excellence from. If vinyl were still alive, this disc would be trumpeted with a cry of bravo.
It is equal measures rip roaring guitar rock and fully orchestrated symphony pop. In fact, Lloyd’s label in the UK, Polydor, had enough wisdom to release it as a special promotional double CD – one disc has six string driven tunes and one has six rock driven monsters. And critics in the UK have voiced their collective approval.
Lloyd has delivered another stunning collection of intelligent, stirring pop/rock ballads and rockers. I had the chance to sit down, have a little lunch, and shoot the breeze with the cool one. (Joanne, Capitol’s way cool publicist and all around great person, leads us to an office and hands us some deli menus. Lloyd lights a cigarette. I sip on some apple juice. We peruse the menus.)
Knowledge of food is just as important as food.
Yes, the knowledge that when ordering food at lunch time in New York, it may take a long time.
(MP)So Lloyd, you’ve got a new solo record. Some say you’ve become the Bobby Darin of the new pop set.
(LC)[Laughing] I’ll take Glen Campbell. I’m not sure about Bobby Darin.
(MP)C’mon. That’s a compliment. You’ve never heard Bobby at the Copa. It’s a classic!
(LC)I’ll have to look for that.
(MP)But on a serious note. Your new record shows a real maturity in your writing as far as the orchestration and the arrangements go. Is this something you ultimately knew you’d reach?
(LC)They’re records that I’ve loved in the past, primarily songs by Jim Webb in the ’60s – “By The Time I Get To Phoenix,” “Galveston” – and there’s been the love of a certain kind of record, early T. Rex records, that initially motivated me into making records in the first place.
I think things like that are very important. And they sort of exist in the back of your mind the whole time.
(MP)That’s pretty diverse though. Going from a classic songwriter to one of the first glitter glam rockers.
(LC)Yeah, but I don’t think T. Rex need to exist in that glitter glam rock environment to still be valid. The groove on T. Rex records was the best in the early ’70s, better than even a lot of the Rolling Stones things at that time. They just had a great feel. But you know you have this thing in the back of your mind, and you think “Oh, yeah that would be great to maybe do something with an orchestra one time. But I never really had the material in the past. And I don’t really think I had the knowledge. I don’t think I had the knowledge of how music worked. I would say five years ago when I was making Mainstream I was probably just learning what it meant to be a musician outside of just playing rhythm guitar and writing the lyrics to a song. And over the last five years I’ve had to learn a lot. Leaving the band meant I had to learn how music worked. So when I took on a project like this now, it was no where as daunting as it might have been all that time ago.
(MP)You weren’t as intimidated.
(LC)Right. You know when we did the strings on Rattlesnakes [his first LP, 1984], Ann Dudley came into the studio one day and I just played the songs to here and sang the melodies. Now it’s totally different. I’ve pretty much worked out most of the arrangements with Blair (Cowan – keyboard player from the Commotions). The two of us pretty much did all the orchestral arrangements ourselves on synths and samplers. And then we presented our ideas to Paul Buckmaster and I went through all our ideas with him and said: “Well look, this melody here is important. This has to stay. This rhythm is important. This has to stay. Maybe this could be improved upon, blah, blah, blah…” but the basic essence of the ideas, we did. The one step that I’m not able to do is write things down and to know the sonic range of a cello. If I’m playing a C4 on a keyboard I don’t know whether that would be a viola or cello’s range or violin’s range. I wouldn’t know. I don’t know if certain types of melodies would work better with strings or with brass. And Buckmaster was very good that way. In the end though I did get to choose which instruments I wanted. For example, I don’t particularly like trumpets so we used French horns, flugelhorns and trombones instead. It’s similar to not liking the color turquoise or something. It’s just a personal thing.
(MP)I guess the folly of your own intrinsic nature ultimately influences your selections in the end and probably lends itself to making it work.
(LC)Sure. I think that makes what you are. And sometimes what determines the kind of record you make may not be the kind of record you like, but rather the kind of record you dislike. So you tend to avoid things you dislike.
(MP)Was it a little more difficult working on this one? I’ve heard some stories that some of the guys playing on it felt like you should have done the balls-to-walls rock and roll record.
(LC)So you’ve heard the rumors already…[laughing]
(MP)It’s apparent when I listen to this record that you certainly had a clear vision. You wanted things a certain way. And I think ultimately it works because it shows a diversity and growth.
(LC)Uh hum. Yeah.
(MP)Plus you’ve already worked with a quintet. Now you’re a solo artist.
(LC)Right. I can’t really let other people’s opinions of what I should be doing influence my decisions to do what I want to do. It’s difficult because when you’re working with guys you know, they put a lot of themselves into your record. I didn’t work with [Robert] Quine [guitar], Matthew [Sweet – bass], or Fred [Maher – drums, co-producer] and say “I’ll do this or that.” Occasionally I say, “I’ve got an idea. I’m not saying that’s it.” Especially with Matthew on a bass line. He’s so brilliant. I’ll say, “Well, I’ve worked out the bass on the demo and these passing notes work out quite well.” But, I’ll pretty much leave it there. When you get down to it, the way the record is going to sound is ultimately my decision and everybody is getting paid. And that’s the difference between being a solo artist and being in a band.
(MP)Exactly. In a band you have to work things out with each member.
(LC)It can be difficult either way.
(MP)Do you feel this is your best record to date?
(LC)I don’t know.
(MP)Do you feel you’ve accomplished what you set out to accomplish?
(LC)Sure. On this record the orchestral side sounds exactly like I wanted it to sound. The rock and roll side obviously depends a lot on individual performances. I didn’t imagine Quine coming up with the sort of J.J. Cale-ish feel on a couple of the songs. It wasn’t something he did on the previous record. I wasn’t ready for that. But when it happened, it was great. Those kind of things you have to accept are going to come along. You can say ‘yea’ or ‘nay’.
(MP)Do you like it?
(LC)Yeah, I’m very satisfied with it. I just don’t think it’s possible to judge what is my best record. Rattlesnakes is probably the most complete record still. The singing annoys me to listen to. The timbre of my voice is much different now than it was then. But in terms of a complete record, it is probably the only complete one. Everything I’ve done since, both with the Commotions and without, has been an attempt to not repeat myself, to develop. It’s no fun for me, the idea of doing the same thing again.
(MP)Do you feel Lloyd Cole will become more known after this record?
(LC)It’s difficult for me in this country. It would be great to be John Lennon or somebody and that whatever record you released, they’d play it on the radio. It’s great to be able to do that. “Butterfly” [brilliant orchestral single] would probably be a number one college record and stop right there. It might be a single later. But it’ll probably be dependent upon the success or lack of success of the previous singles. There’s going to be a lot of singles off this record.
(MP)Well, there’s much to choose from. I’m hard pressed to point out any filler here.
Publication date: 01/10/91