LLOYD COLE THE SOLO YEARS : 2011 ONWARDS

This is the final part of what I hope has been an enjoyable series for everyone these past few Sundays…going by the comments left behind it certainly seems to have filled a few gaps in some knowledge bases.

Much of what I’ve written up has been informed by Lloyd’s own wonderfully maintained website – http://www.lloydcole.com

It seems fitting to bring the story up to date with a heavy reliance on the timeline from the website:-

2011

Most of the year is taken up with touring the album Broken Record.

In 2002 legendary Austrian composer and krautrock pioneer Hans Joachim Roedelius heard LC’s Plastic Wood and liked it enough to make is own, unsolicited re-mix. Nine years later they finally come up with a plan for a record together – they will exchange ‘unfinished’ tracks, for the other to complete. LC holes up in his attic with his brand new modular synthesizer.

2012

By the end of January LC has finished his work on the Roedelius tracks and has sent his files to Austria. By the end of the year an album is complete.

LC tours with eldest son Will, as an acoustic duo. Later, LC and Will enter the studio to document the arrangements from the shows. The result – Lloyd & Will Cole Acoustic Sessions 2012 , a second white label CD.

Late September LC is back to the attic with notes and ideas for new songs. Fans and Tapete have again funded a new album. A start date in LA with old cohorts Fred Maher and Matthew Sweet is set. LC decides to make no demos, but hopes to have all songs completed before the LA sessions, and then to work ‘Blonde on Blonde’ style with Maher and Sweet. 2 months of solid writing yields an album’s worth of songs. Recording goes to schedule and overdubs begin in Massachusetts in December. Musicians include Will Cole, Mark Schwaber, Matt Cullen, Blair Cowan, Joan (as Policewoman) Wasser and Dave Derby.

2013

Selected Studies Vol. 1, the album from the collaboration with Hans Joachim Roedelius is released in February to great acclaim with Rolling Stone magazine declaring:-

“All instrumental, dreamier than one might expect from Cole and bouncier than one might expect from Roedelius, this is a worthy, surprisingly melodic set likely to surprise fans from both camps. Recommended.”

Work on the more standard album continues and in June 2013, is released with the title Standards is released in June. Everyone – fans and critics alike seem to love it.

2014

Lloyd Cole and the Leopards (made up of some of the very best stalwarts of the Scottihs music scene) perform four UK shows in LC’s first full electric band shows since the early 2000’s with The Negatives.  I caught one of these in Glasgow and it was an astoundingly good show, despite being played open-air in a torrential downpour!

The solo tour resumes and continues all year. In October 2014,  Standards is released in North America by Omnivore Recordings garnering a second wave of acclaim.

2015

April  – Universal/Spectrum release Don’t Look Back, a 20 track compilation of LC’s time at what was then Polygram.

June  – Universal release Lloyd Cole and the Commotions Collected Recordings 1983-1989, a six disc box set.

September  – LC makes his debut as a live electronic performer with two Berlin shows, the first with Hans Joachim Roedelius at a festival celebrating of his 80th birthday. The second was an intimate solo show at Basic Electricity. To coincide with these shows Bureau B released LC’s third full length electronic album – 1D.

These were the last pieces of music to be officially released, but Lloyd has been incredibly busy touring the past three years.  Indeed, in 2016, such was the media focus on his early recordings as a result of the acclaim heaped on the boxset that he decided to  devote the entire year to performances featuring material only from 1983 – 1996. Some shows were solo, others featured The Leopards, and more often that not, his son Will joined him on stage. The show at the Kelvingrove Bandstand in August 2016, with the Leopards and Will all on stage with him, was as fine a show as I’ve ever seen in all the years I’ve been watching him.

2017 and 2018, as one glance at http://www.lloydcole.com/live/ will testify, has been just as frantic and the acclaim all over the world just as high.

I’ve a nice wee postscript of my own to add.

I only ever got myself a download copy of the 11-track Standards – partly as I was wary following my disappointment with Broken Record but also as I was going through a short phase, thanks to constraints on space, of cutting back on vinyl and CDs.  (I’ve since simply taken up more floorspace, much to the chagrin of Mrs Villain). It’s an album that I do love and listen to a fair bit…..there’s just so many moments which feel like a throwback to all parts of his career from the Commotions days to the early solo years to the later stuff when it was just him and his guitars and the voice…..so you can imagine my delight when my trip to Toronto just a few weeks back yielded a second-hand vinyl copy of said album, in mint condition at a very reasonable price.

And given that the LP landed in my hands so unexpectedly while this series was being published, it really did have a sense of karma about it.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Period Piece
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – No Truck

Now……does anybody want to have a go at the solo ICA that I’ve found impossible to nail down????

JC

LLOYD COLE THE SOLO YEARS : 2007-2010

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”

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Like A Broken Record

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

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – If I Were A Song

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.

JC

LLOYD COLE THE SOLO YEARS : 2004-06

2004 saw a renewed interest in the career of Lloyd Cole, thanks in part to a decision to briefly reform the Commotions for a select group of gigs to mark the 20th Anniversary of the release of Rattlesnakes as well as the album itself being re-released in a CD deluxe format with the second disc containing demos, concert and radio performances. There was also a cash-in 21-track compilation of singles from the band era and solo career.

As an aside, the gig at Glasgow Barrowlands in 2004 was as joyous and heart-warming a night as I’ve ever had at that particular venue, stretching back what is now 35 years.

The same year saw Lloyd begin the recording of his next solo record although it would take until August 2006 before Antidepressant was released, again on Sanctuary Records. It was a continuation of the successful formula followed on Music In A Foreign Language in that it was mostly one man and his guitar, albeit there’s a grander production and what feels like a larger budget enabling some strings to be superbly utilised, but where the last album had often been quite a dark and sad offering, there was a lot of fine self-deprecating humour on display across the latest offering, none more so than on album opener:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – The Young Idealists

There can’t have been anyone who heard when they this, either played live or when they bought the new record, who, wouldn’t have afforded themselves a wry and knowing smile. We might like to think that we still, in our mid 40s, hold the same beliefs and values as we did in our mid 20s, but you can’t ignore or discount the lessons you learn along the way.

It’s a relatively short album clocking in at around the 40 minute mark across 11 tracks, but around a quarter of the record is taken up by two lengthy and very wistful numbers, both of which display Lloyd’s ear for a tune and ability to come up with a lyric that Mr Cohen would have been proud of, especially this:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – How Wrong Can You Be?

There’s a very fine review on-line which sums up Antidepressant as “an album of songs about mid-life, its traps, compromises, disappointments, and the hidden delights found in aging. Desire is not absent in these songs, it’s merely channeled differently, and new ones pop up in the gaps where others have either been realized or forgotten.”

An absolute gem of a record and well worth picking up if you don’t already own it.

JC

 

LLOYD COLE THE SOLO YEARS : 2002/3

Having finally cleared the decks by finally getting the old record from 1996 out to the public, not forgetting the sideways trip into electronic ambience, the next two years saw Lloyd Cole turn into something akin to a folk singer, increasingly reliant on his trusty acoustic and his voice.

In some ways it was inevitable as the live shows were nowadays almost entirely acoustic with storytelling thrown in for good measure, increasingly at ease with the aging process and acknowledging that, for the most part, his audience were doing likewise. The old songs always got the loudest cheers and applause in the live setting but there was enough of a devotion from the fans that the new material was well received, enough for Lloyd to have a go at a really stripped down record not far removed from a home recording.

Music In A Foreign Language was recorded in 2002 and released in the UK on Sanctuary Records in June 2003. It was an album I enjoyed a great deal at the time, but giving it a fresh listen again a few days ago for the purposes of this series, I found it a little bit one-dimensional and lacking in ambition somewhat. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy hearing the songs again but they have sounded better played live over the years and the ones which LC has gradually dropped from his sets can now be seen as some of his less-strong material across his career. Lyrically, it’s a fairly straight-forward and unambiguous offer, albeit there are a couple of toe-curling moments of sixth-form prose that he’d never have allowed himself to sing back in his heyday.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Music In A Foreign Language
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Late Night, Early Town

The two most enduring songs on the album are a cover, and a surprising one at that, along with a wonderfully loose and stripped back version of a song he’d recorded and released with The Negatives

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – People Ain’t No Good
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – No More Love Songs

Yup, Lloyd does a fine job on one of Nick Cave‘s brooding numbers from his break-up album The Boatman’s Song. It sounds as if Lloyd is dedicating it just about everyone who he’s ever encountered in the music industry.

JC

LLOYD COLE THE SOLO YEARS : 2001

2001 rolled around and quite incredibly, Lloyd Cole released two CDs worth of music on XIII Bis Records, the label that had ensured The Negatives material got to see the light of day the previous year.

Both albums were released on the same day but they couldn’t have been any more diverse.

Etc. was, more or less, the lost album of 1996 which had been caught up in the record label wrangles I referred to a couple of weeks back. It’s an acoustic, at times folksy/country album, consisting of fully realised songs, demos and covers. Lloyd’s voice had rarely sounded more impressive, almost as if he was determined to make it as much of an instrument within the sounds he was creating, never straining for notes and delivering every word in a clear and concise manner. It’s a beautiful record, one which reflected the way he was now earning his living as live musician, touring solo with just a couple of guitars…no support acts, splitting his sets into two halves with an interval for the audience to enjoy a drink, loads of entertaining stories in between the music as he reminisced about his career and giving his audience the songs that most had come along to hear – the Commotions hits reinterpreted in an Unplugged fashion.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Old Enough To Know Better
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Memphis
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Fool You Are (demo)

The middle track is a cover of the song written by the actress Karen Black that she had performed in Nashville, the 1975 hit movie directed by Robert Altman. Lloyd’s version features Matt Johnston of The The on backing vocals.

The other CD was Plastic Wood, consisting of 19 tracks of ambient electonica across 45 minutes, with all keyboards played by Lloyd himself. It was totally unexpected and unsurprisingly it divided opinion.

I don’t listen to enough music of the genre to determine if it’s very good or an amateurish effort when compared to the acclaimed masters. It’s an album I’ve rarely returned to over the years and indeed I went as far as deleting it from the i-tunes library so as to prevent the tracks getting in the way of any occasion when I wanted a Lloyd Cole mixfest. It is worth, however, drawing your attention to this allmusic review of Plastic Wood with the writer very keen to offer praise.

I looked for but couldn’t find the CD where it should be on the shelf which means I’ve either filed it in the wrong place (and I’ve neither the time nor energy to search for it) or I’ve forgotten about loaning it out to someone at some point.  If it’s the latter and you’re reading this, then I’ll willingly take it back without the imposition of a fine.

JC

LLOYD COLE THE SOLO YEARS : 1996-98

It seemed that everyone at the UK record label was happy with the direction Lloyd Cole was heading in. Love Songs had carved out a bit of a niche for him as a talented acoustic-driven singer-songwriter and he spent much of 1996 in a New York studio carving out a new album along such lines, with a number of old friends, including ex-Commotion Neil Clark, flying in to lend a hand.

The completed album was well received by his direct contacts at the label but was vetoed by the head of the company who instead had a plan to put it on ice for the time being and release it in due course on the back of a new compilation album which would feature Commotions and solo material. The request was also made that Lloyd specifically write some new songs which could be released as singles to promote the planned new ‘Best Of’ collection.

Lloyd tried to play the game but everything got bogged down in record company politics. In the meantime, he got himself in and out of studios to cut songs for compilation albums and pulled together a new band called The Negatives, made up of NYC musicians, with who he played with live as well as putting down some tracks in the studio in the hope of them being released.

It took an eternity to get round to issuing the best of record, during which time Lloyd’s recording career was in limbo. The decision was taken to work with producers Clive Langer and Alan Winstanley who had delivered Easy Pieces back in the days of the Commotions but it didn’t quite go fully to plan. Stephen Street, with whom Lloyd had worked on Love Songs, was brought into polish things off on two new potential hit singles.

The label bosses were still far from happy and declined to release either of the two new songs, leading to the farcical situation of The Collection (as it was entitled) to be issued without Lloyd being able to get out on the promotional trail. And to add insult to injury, the label further declined to allow the 1996 album to be released….and indeed came to a parting of the ways with the singer.

Messy doesn’t come close to describing the situation.

Here’s some of what was made available publicly available in this period of time:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole with Robert Quine – I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself

An ironic song to cover given the circumstances he was in at that time, this was recorded in 1997 for inclusion on a compilation album of Burt Bacharach covers. The other irony being that just a few years after releasing half an album of Bacharach inspired songs on Don’t Get Weird With Me Baby, this cover is just vocals and guitars.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Si Tu Dois Partir

Another contribution to a compilation entitled Pop Romantique : French Pop Classics, this time in 1998. The request had been for a French song but Lloyd felt he couldn’t pull that off and so he went for Bob Dylan‘s 1965 single If You’ve Gotta Go, Go Now but as interpreted and taken into the charts by Fairport Convention in 1969.

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Romany Soup

The same folk behind the Burt Bacharach project, which had been part of a series of records under the title of Great Jewish Music, got in touch to ask Lloyd if he’d care to contribute to another album in the series, this time featuring songs by one of his heroes, Marc Bolan. The track selected was from 1969 and the Tyrannosaurus Rex days.

Finally, there were two new songs which made it onto The Collection, with one being a re-working of a song that had been recorded with The Negatives. it was also supposed to be the lead off single for the compilation but was shelved everywhere, except for some strange reason, in Germany:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – That Boy

Really can’t fathom why it wasn’t allowed to be released as a stand-alone 45.

The b-sides of that release included the English version of the track recorded for the French compilation album and a song which had been co-written with Stephen Lindsay of The Big Dish which had almost made it onto Love Songs:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – If You Gotta Go, Go Now
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Rain On The Parade

The other new song had been originally been recorded for the 1996 album that seemed as if it was ever unlikely to see the light of day; again, it would have made for a decent stand-alone 45:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Fool You Are

But, as you may have gathered from the way this series is unfolding, things would take another unusual turn in the coming years.

JC

 

LLOYD COLE THE SOLO YEARS : 1995

The great solo career many had predicted for Lloyd Cole hadn’t quite worked out as planned. The fall-out from the poorly received and poor-selling Bad Vibes rumbled on into 1994 with no new material made available. It would later transpire that Lloyd was busy writing and demoing new songs but there was very little faith being shown in him by those who had backed him to this point in time.

There were a number of false starts on the next record which can be evidenced on the finished product with five different production credits listed across twelve songs. This would normally be a sign of a disastrous product with the record going through all sorts of gestation periods and being fiddled around with, but somehow Love Story manages to hang together very well and to be a very enjoyable and listenable album.

It is a record in which LC goes back to basics for the most part, uncomplicated tunes with clear vocal delivery and next to no studio trickery. There’s even a couple of radio-friendly numbers included, one of which actually delivered a Top 30 hit in the UK singles chart, a very impressive achievement at a time when Britpop was dominating. The overall tone, however, is one of melancholy and my initial instinct on first hearing it was that someone should try to somehow have LC hook up with Moz as he’d have been a perfect mid-90s foil and between them they could have given us something ridiculously special, albeit Moz would need to have bowed down and allowed Lloyd to pen some of the lyrics.

It had been just over a decade since Rattlesnakes had taken the listening public by storm and it was not long after Edwyn Collins had made marked his great comeback in the public eye with A Girl Like You. There was therefore something of a renewed interest in Lloyd and the first new single certainly lifted the spirits and offered hope that he would again be a major seller:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Like Lovers Do

It was A-listed on Radio 1 bringing loads of airplay and back on your television screens again after an extended absence, looking just as suave, handsome and debonair as last time around.

Sadly, the next equally strong single didn’t find as much favour with everyone, missing out on the important listing and bellyflopping at #73:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Sentimental Fool

Love Story sold a lot more than Bad Vibes, but not as many as it deserved. It was largely ignored by the music papers and had no chance in the mainstream media who were totally obsessed with the new kids and their electric guitars. It’s an album I reckon would have done incredibly well if social media back in the day had beem more advanced as it was an LP bloggers and the like would have warmed to, given the quality and diversity on display, such as these:

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Be There
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – Unhappy Song

There were even some superb songs left off the album and made only available as b-sides:-

mp3 : Lloyd Cole – I Will Not Leave You Alone
mp3 : Lloyd Cole – The Steady Slowing Down Of The Heart

This surely all pointed to a bigger, brighter future……but the fickle world of pop music doesn’t work that way and instead things got quite messy.

JC