Lloyd Cole and The Commotions – Rattlesnakes (1984)
It’s often said that any singer or band’s debut album, no matter how long the ensuing career proves to be, is their best and most enduring. It’s a case that can be backed up by the fact that a fair number of the records in this countdown were debuts.
The thing is, Lloyd Cole and The Commotions would later release two more hugely enjoyable albums post-debut. Lloyd Cole as a solo artist, is just about to release his 13th solo record, while there was also one further album under the name of Lloyd Cole and The Negatives. While a couple of the solo releases have been a tad on the experimental or lo-fi side, all of them have much to offer, as hopefully highlighted by various posts on this blog over the years.
But, and given the fact that many of the songs have, to popular acclaim, been kept in the live sets over the past almost 40 years, there is no doubt that Lloyd’s devoted fans are near universal in the view that Rattlesnakes is his very best.
It’s an album very much of its time and place. Glasgow in 1983/4 seemed to be the most amazing place to live, with its musical scene seemingly scaling all sorts of new and exciting heights. Every gig seemed to be packed with A&R reps coming up from London in the hope of finding ‘the next big thing.’ The big bands came and played the Apollo, but there were also so many other fantastic venues such as Tiffany’s, Night Moves and The Plaza, while the student unions at Glasgow and Strathclyde University, Glasgow Art School and Glasgow School of Art were also very much part of the ‘indie’ touring circuit. There were also an increasing number of modern city centre pubs that were far removed from the traditional boozers in which anyone could drop in and spot an established or aspiring musician, actor, painter, poet or comedian, with the Rock Garden and Nico’s being near the top of such lists.
Lloyd Cole and his band were a big part of the buzz. The frontman, although not from the city, was at one of its universities. Copies of some demos were in circulation and it was apparent that the frontman had somehow found Glasgow’s best guitarist and keyboard players and persuaded them to join his band, while he’s recruited a rhythm section that wasn’t shabby. We were only a couple of years removed from the Postcard era and the enthusiastic amateurism that had been involved in the early recordings, but The Commotions, and many of their peers in the city, were now ensuring .professionalism and skilled playing was very much to the fore.
The strange thing is…..the songs weren’t huge commercial successes. Debut single Perfect Skin reached #26, but the two follow-ups didn’t hit the Top 40. The album did spend four months or so in the charts between October 84 and February 85, but mostly at the lower end.
And yet, everyone I knew seemed to own a copy of the vinyl. Like a few other acts who have already been in this rundown, along with others still to feature, this was a band for the student population, or the 80s bedsit generation as it has been dubbed – and of which I am a proud card-carrying member.
It’s all too easy to get nostalgic about the past, but I wouldn’t swap my era for any other. And I’m certainly incredibly happy that my student years of 81-85, and in particular the last two when I was living in shared accommodation with friends, coincided with such a high point in the city’s musical history. Rattlesnakes was the soundtrack to so much of what went on, and as such, it’ll always be one of my favourite albums until the day I take my final breath.
mp3: Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – Charlotte Street