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:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Negatives – Past Imperfect

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:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Negatives – Tried To Rock

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:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Negatives – That Boy

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:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Negatives – What’s Wrong With This Picture

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.




Lloyd Cole & The Commotions broke up in 1989 after releasing three LPs and something in the region of a dozen singles, many of which were chart hits. Since then, Lloyd has pursued a solo career which has had more critical than commercial acclaim which is a real shame as much of the output he has released over the past 25 years is every bit as good as his better known stuff with his band mates.

But back in 2000, Lloyd teamed up with some younger musicians from New York to form The Negatives. The other musicians in The Negatives were Dave Derby (lead singer and bassist of 90′s Boston-based Dambuilders, a band once decreed by Spin Magazine to be the best “indie band in America.”), Mike Kotch (guitarist with 90s New York band Eve’s Plum), Rafa Maciejak (drummer with 90s New York band Ivy, who in their time toured with Oasis, Edwyn Collins and The Divine Comedy among others) and Jill Sobule (highly regarded and talented singer-songwriter from Denver who I once saw support Billy Bragg at a gig in Edinburgh).

Other contributors on some of the songs included ex-Commotion Neil Clark and Adam Schlesinger of the Fountains Of Wayne, while production duties were largely (but not exclusively) handled by Stephen Street.

Anyways…..it’s clear that was no bunch of rookie or session musicians, and I reckon the results produced, at the time, Lloyd’s most consistent record in terms of quality since Rattlesnakes back in 1984. Its a great collection of songs and the talents of the other musicians more than complement Lloyd’s vocal delivery. I was just sorry that the project proved to be a one-off and also by the fact that it was a very low-key tour that supported the release of the LP (although in saying that, I was lucky enough to be in Dublin one night when The Negatives were in town and managed to blag a ticket).

What I most like about the record is the mixture of styles deployed throughout. There’s some acoustic type stuff that Lloyd would further develop on his  solo albums throughout the subsequent decade, there’s some radio-friendly pop classics that should have been chart hits and there’s even some songs where the band go for a full-out rock assault.

And of course Lloyd’s great lyrics……

mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Negatives – Past Imperfect
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Negatives – What’s Wrong With This Picture?
mp3 : Lloyd Cole & The Negatives – Too Much E


PS :  I drafted this post weeks ago.  In the interim period I’ve actually had the incredibly good fortune to bump into Lloyd Cole and be introduced to him.  I couldn’t bring myself to tell him that I’ve been a huge fan for years….I still do get star-struck.