For the most part, the years immediately after the release of Antidepressant were spent on the road in Europe and the USA, mostly perfecting his solo shows where it was just the man on a stool, with a mic and a selection of guitars. I caught a number of shows in this period in a number of locations and, while they tended to follow a tried-and-tested formula, they were always enjoyable and entertaining.
The return to the limelight via the temporary reunion of the Commotions reunion, as well as the very positive reception afforded Antidepressant and the live shows, led to a plethora of releases in the later half of the noughties:-
August 2007 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions Live at the BBC (Vol 1) : 19 tracks lifted from sessions and a live gig at the Hammersmith Palais , all dating from 1994
August 2007 : Lloyd Cole & The Commotions Live at the BBC (Vol 2) : 16 tracks lifted from sessions in 1985 and a live gig at Glastonbury in 1986
August 2007 : Lloyd Cole Live at the BBC : 25 tracks, most of which were from a 1995 gig at Hammersmith Odeon plus a radio session that same year
January 2009 : Cleaning Out The Ashtrays – 4xCD boxset of collected b-sides, rarities, previously unreleased or alternative mixes of songs (59 tracks in all covering 1989-2006)
January 2009 : Folksinger Series Vol1 : Radio Bremen – 15 tracks from a set recorded for German radio station in 2003
January 2009 : Folksinger Series Vol2 : The Whelan – 23 tracks lifted from a three-night residency in Dublin in 2008.
In 2010, new ground was broken as fans are asked to crowdfund a new album, the songs of which had been written and tested acoustically on the road with Mark Schwaber and Matt Cullen, two musicians from Massachusetts, with the collective calling itself The Small Ensemble. The response from fans, together with support from Tapete Records, enabled a full band to be recruited and for the first time in the best part of a decade, Lloyd’s brand new album was much more than a solo offering.
Broken Record was released in September 2010. It opens with quite possibly my favourite Lloyd Cole line of all time
“Not that I had that much dignity left anyway”
The opening track in some ways sets the tone for a very different sort of album, featuring banjos, mandolins, pedal guitars, violins and harmony vocals that make it very Americana in texture and feel. Sadly, the songs feel sometimes a little bit too ‘Lloyd Cole by numbers’ and to this long-time fan, it jolted somwhat and felt like a damp squib after Antidepressant. Listening again to the album in full recently for the first time in a few years, while commuting to and from work, I jotted down some notes as each song came up…here’s a couple of my thoughts:
Writers Retreat – an intro which rips off Maggie May and has a lyric just too clever for its own good
Double Happiness – this would have mustered as a b-side in the Commotions days…disappointing ending to the album
It wasn’t all negativity mind you. There’s a wonderful ballad – Flipside – which is screaming to be given the full kitchen sink of the wall of sound treatment while Westchester County Jail, Rhinestones and Oh Genevieve ( the latter written with his old sparring partner Blair Cowan) are decent enough listens.
It does seem, however, that my views on Broken Record are not in tune with many others given the critical praise handed out on its release:-
“the most consistent upbeat record Cole’s released in a dog’s age”
“a welcome surprise and a return to peak form”
“Some artists go Nashville to try and cover up for the fact they’re washed-up. But Cole, recording in Manhattan and near his Massachusetts home, never hints at that kind of desperation.”
“There are songs here every bit the equal of those from his glory days”
The last sentence does seem a bit far-fetched given this is on the album
One I fear wouldn’t be out-of-place on a Coldplay album with a dreadful ‘la la la la’ refrain/chorus added in for good measure.