Really interesting that Friend of Rachel Worth, whose views and opinions over the years have more often than not been bang-on-the-money, feels that the solo career of Lloyd Cole actually went a bit weird after the release of Don’t Get Weird On Me Babe in 1991.
I certainly concur that the next few years were less than stellar but there would be a subsequent tremendous return to form a few years later as I will hopefully demonstrate in the fullness of time
The commercial failure of the sophomore solo album was a bit of a body low. As I said last week, it’s a tremendous and ambitious record, packed with some of the best songs he’s ever written, but it was very much a case of it being in the wrong place at the wrong time as popular music was going through one of its phases where some sort of new sounds and a movement associated with them was all that mattered. In short, grunge almost killed LC’s career stone dead.
There was no music at all in 1992 and it wasn’t until October 1993 that the new album was released. It was called Bad Vibes which perhaps was Lloyd suggesting he already knew what sort of critical reaction the record was going to provoke…..
I’m thinking back 25 years and recalling that I was bitterly disappointed with the new record, to the extent that I played it three times and put it on the shelf for what I thought would be eternity. I certainly thought that Lloyd’s recording career would soon be over, fully expecting him to be dropped by his companies. Bad Vibes was a million miles away from the Commotions but it was also just about as far again from the first two solo records. It seemed to be a record which was ridiculously over-produced and unplayable in any meaningful sense outside of the studio, with not much to offer in the way of memorable tunes. Sure, there were occasional glimpses of genius in the lyrics, but there were also some banal offerings to match the dullness and clichéd nature of the music emanating from the speakers. All in all, I considered it was a dud.
Nowadays, and with the benefit of having heard a number of the songs played live with much more basic and stripped-back arrangements, I think it’s fair to say that Bad Vibes does have some excellent songs which deserved a better fate than they received in the studio. It would be easy enough to point the finger at producer Adam Peters and mixer Bob Clearmountain but Lloyd has always been a hand-on type of guy in the studio and he would have had a big say in things. I’ve no doubt that the relative failure of the first two solo LPs had led him to again try something different but this was just so far from what I think was his comfort zone that it wasn’t delivered with any real confidence.
There were two singles lifted from the album and these are as good an example as the 1993 songs somehow managing to be instantly recognisable as Lloyd Cole, but not in a way in which you’d perhaps expect or indeed enjoy:-
Interesting that Lloyd himself has said of this album:-
To be honest, I really didn’t know what I wanted to make with Bad Vibes, but this didn’t worry me. I was simply trying to make a record which would surprise people. I thought that was written into my job description. To start with, both Adam and I were fairly gung-ho about this, but after months of work together I think we gave into the inevitable truth – my voice and my songs are pretty easily recongisable the moment the singing starts, no matter what.
I’m inclined to agree with those final few words, but it still was a shock to hear such plodding and ill-conceived arrangements at the time.
There were a number of b-sides recorded…one of which harked back to something more akin to previous straight forward pop sounds and thus probably left off the album for that very reason:-
It was also interesting that, having sort of hit a wall with the recording and mixing process for Bad Vibes, Lloyd felt he’d be better recording some Marc Bolan and Lou Reed covers for the extra tracks on the singles. He’s since said this is what he wished Bad Vibes had sounded more :-
I’m not convinced that an album of songs akin to these would have impressed me any more than what had been issued on Bad Vibes.