If you’ve been following this series then you’ll be aware that Lloyd Cole‘s future in the record industry was uncertain as the new century dawned.
The record label situation was shambolic and something of a legal nightmare. Lloyd was determined that his next release should feature The Negatives, a band of talented NYC musicians that he had first pulled together back in 1997 and with whom he was enjoying himself again.
LC was able to pull in a few favours in terms of funding and studio time and some of 1999 was spent working on songs, some of which were new and some of which had been written for the solo album which Mercury Records had refused to release back in 1996.
A French-based label, XIII Bis Records, had the stomach for the legal battle over publishing and recording rights thus enabling The Negatives to be released in November 2000.
Backed by Dave Derby (bass and vocals), Jill Sobule (guitars and vocals), Michael Kotch (guitars) and Rafa Maciejack (drums), not to mention contributions in the studio on the playing or arranging side from old friends such as Fred Quine, Neil Clark and Anne Dudley, the results proved to be one of the most unexpectedly high points of Lloyd’s entire career.
It’s an introspective album in many ways, with the tone set by the opening song whose title and lyric is full of references to LC’s career up to this point. It’s a work of genius:-
Every song seems to transpose the listener to another time – some were very reminiscent of the Commotions era, while others were a reminder of the solo years. At long last Lloyd sounded happy (by this time he was married with two young sons making up his family) and the record is an absolute joy from start to end. He even finds time to have a go at himself in which he remembers how the sound, look and persona he adopted in the early days of the solo career left him like a fish out of water:-
And in a sort of two fingers to the label, he took the aborted single that had been meant to trumpet the release of The Collection in 1998 and gave it the luxurious arrangement, complete with strings, that his paymasters had likely been looking for all along:-
And then there’s the longest track on the album, at around five and a half minutes, in which the lyric is a throwback to the cleverness of the earliest material over a defiant tune which indicates that, from now on, Lloyd is going to do things his way:-
Lloyd Cole & The Negatives went out on the road to some extent to promote the album, also performing material from the Commotions era. I caught a show in Dublin in 2001 but sadly, it didn’t quite work. The new material sounded fine but the old stuff sounded on the lumpy side – it was a similar experience to hearing Morrissey‘s backing band do very bad things to The Smiths songs.
In a solo career that had already provided many twists and turns, what was about to happen the following year almost beggared belief.