Duran Duran’s recent commercial revival has been helped no end by that unsavoury phenomenon, the school disco, in which revellers too young to remember Rio’s first arrival chant manfully along to its swooping nonsense. Lloyd Cole and the Commotions were always a little too mannered for that market, and it’s hard to see who, beyond their original fan base, might be all that interested in their return. Still, judging by the number of folk with receding hairlines jiggling around at this, the band’s first UK date in a reformation tour, the fans’ zeal still burns brightly.
There is no hint of new material; instead the five original band members perform songs from their mid-1980s heyday, when they mixed sprightly melodics with lyrics that referenced Greta Garbo and Truman Capote and rhymed Norman Mailer with “new tailor”. At times a sense of fatigue overhangs the proceedings. Cole’s voice strains uncomfortably on Lost Weekend, while Perfect Skin sounds messily familiar, like a bleary-eyed house guest.
At the end of an unusually hectic session with a harmonica, Cole sits on the drum riser looking drained, and rubs his face with a red towel. The crowd cheer it all, and elsewhere they have good reason to. Cut Me Down comes with an irrepressible lilt, and Rattlesnakes abounds with bubbling, precocious wisdom. Mister Malcontent, with its insistent bass and carefully rationed feedback, is a reminder that the Commotions could be muscular as well as winsome.
There is, of course, a distinct irony in these fortysomethings pouring themselves into the songs they wrote as fresh-faced adolescents. It lends their once perfect pop a dignity and a profound sadness. As Cole raises his damp face and tired arms, like a half-winched messiah, to the gauche sentiments and beautiful melody of Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?, it’s hard not to be carried away.
Publication: The Guardian Newspaper
Publication date: 14/10/04