Like A Broken Record.

Singer-songwriter and golf enthusiast, Lloyd Cole has been visiting Australia since his first flush as a pop star with his band the Commotions in the early 1980’s. After the Commotions disbanded, Cole made a slew of fine solo albums with major labels. As the commercial world became more insistent on returns, Cole parted company with the big boys and set up shop himself in upstate New York with a web site and an online storefront. An early adopter, Cole has built a community around the world that support and enjoy his artistic endeavours.

His latest album Broken Record sees the artist hitting our shores leading an ensemble that includes Matt Cullen and Mark Schwaber on guitars and mandolin.

When we chat, Cole is hunkered down in Dunedin. Just in from the States, the singer had picked up a bug.

“I’m actually sick,” he begins, “I just arrived last night and felt it starting, and I just got back from the chemist. I have a fever – I get sick on tour more often than you can imagine, but we just finished a whole tour last year and I didn’t get sick once, and I guess I was just thinking “Okay, those days are gone, I’m okay again. Travel and hotel rooms and aeroplanes are fantastic incubators for germs.”

Thankfully, the bug passed and the ensemble turned in a fine gig in Dunedin. Cole likes to tweet and he found the city to be like ‘San Francisco in June’: which almost sounds like a Cole song title.

With Broken Record, Cole has recorded with a band again. Blair Cowen from the Commotions is on board and there’s a mood in the playing that is a definite throwback to heady days gone by. To finance the record, Cole put a proposition to his online community. For $45, upfront, one thousand fans could buy a deluxe edition of the record. His followers jumped on board and the album was made. The concept was inspired by Cole’s Negative’s alumni Jill Sobule.

“I think Jill was probably the catalyst,” he recalls. “I’d heard about other bands doing it before. I believe that Marillion from Scotland had been doing it for years. I think Jill was the spark; she actually asked her fans “Give me money.” It wasn’t a question of ‘buy the record in advance’, and they did. I thought if I’m going to make this particular record, now’s the time to try it because this is a record that’s got a proper budget which is probably gone a bit beyond what a sensible economist would spend on a record with expectations for sales based on my recent ones.”

“It’s a record I wanted to make and I think it appears it’s also a record that the fans wanted to hear, me back with a full band, and recording sort of old school, so it was all around a decent idea.”

With the deluxe editions now gone, fans can buy a smartly packaged single disc set. The music will be available at shows, and in the shops. Despite the concept, Cole’s unsure about whether he’ll use the method again.

“The basic concept of the model [is good]: I think it’s the actual nitty gritty of getting it done [that] we couldn’t have done worse. I couldn’t have timed it any worse. With the man hours involved, in reality I could probably have gone out and made the money in less time.”

“If we’re going to do it again we need a better model for actually making it work. But, I really don’t know. The records, I think, from now on, are probably going to be determined to a large extent by the songs I write, when I write them, and what the songs are.”

“The reasons for Broken Record having a full band, was really the songs. I was quite happy not to ever record with a band again, and it’s great fun doing it, but the idea of touring, and that being my main outlet, is something I was quite happy to be in the past. I was quite content to think I could just be playing, making the sort of Songs of Love and Hate [solo records] for the rest of my life.”

At some point Cole would like to record a studio album with his Small Ensemble.

“I want to make a record where we do our three-piece interpretations of potentially new songs and potentially old songs. We’ve got a repertoire right now of 40 songs; we could probably make a double album with that. I would like to have a record of a Small Ensemble, but beyond that I don’t really know what I’ll do next: that certainly wouldn’t require advanced sales.”

Lloyd Cole plays the Old Museum this Thursday [February 10 2011]. Broken Record is out now through Other Tongues.

Link to original article online

Publication: Tom Magazine

Publication date: 09/02/11