Addicted To Vinyl Musical thoughts from the open road, with headphones on

9Dec/0934

Lloyd Cole: Past, Present and Future

While perusing the Winchester’s schedule on Sunday night, my jaw dropped at the show announced for January 27, 2010: Lloyd Cole Trio. I immediately flashed back to 2006. In November of that year, I flew to Cleveland for a few days, with the express purpose of catching Placebo at the Agora and Cole at the Winchester. The British singer-songwriter was touring behind his 2006 release Antidepressant, and the C-Town show was his first appearance here in sixteen years. Performing as a duo (well, a trio if you count the occasional drum loops from a laptop), Cole ran through a set heavy on new tunes and light on well-known songs. Seeing him in such an intimate venue, however, was amazing.

Lloyd Cole

Intrigued that Cole was coming back so soon, I looked at his website and realized that this new show was only one of four on the whole tour. Four shows, mind you, circling the Great Lakes region. In January. Without a stop in New York City. Who does that?

Well, Cole does, that’s who. Always inventive – and never content to rest on his laurels – he described his new trio like this:

The Small Ensemble is my new baby blue grass band. No, we're not really blue grass at all, but we do use similar instrumentation. And we're all acoustic. No drums or bass. This will not be a greatest hits set, we will be leaning heavily on recent and new material. Which isn't to say we don't play any old songs - we've already figured out 3 songs from Rattlesnakes - but we will not be attempting to reproduce the youthful attitude of the older material. I'm really excited with my first new band in a very long time. If all goes to plan, they will feature prominently on the next album, and we will tour in this format on the back of the release.

New album, eh? Excitement! But wait -- there’s a catch: It doesn’t exist yet! And allegedly, it won’t see the light of day until fall 2010 at the very earliest. Like many other artists these days, the label-less Cole is asking his fans to pre-order the album, in order to help fund the recording. For $45, the version fans receive will be exclusive to lloydcole.com and have a second disc of demos and outtakes, among other perks.

His insistence on autonomy – whether borne out of necessity or preference – is awe-inspiring. Beyond that, Cole's approachable: He maintains and codes his own website, and if you buy an album from his shop, he'll sign it for free. These gestures certainly help him command respect and encourage fan loyalty. (He has the latter in spades: Why not join his street team, the Young Idealists?)

In light of this, Cole’s status as a cult artist is even more puzzling -- and criminal. Starting with the near-perfect Rattlesnakes, his 1984 debut with first band the Commotions, he’s churned out album after album of smart, introspective (and often dark) pop music. This dark side isn’t monochromatic, though: He’s dabbled in electronica, orchestral music and other genres, causing the word “eclectic” to pop up quite a bit as a descriptor. Kindred souls include the Church, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen and Pulp.

Along the way, he’s amassed quite a bevy of talented admirers and collaborators. Matthew Sweet played bass in Cole’s earliest post-Commotions band; in that same group, famed NYC musician Robert Quine played guitar. A turn-of-the-century band, dubbed Lloyd Cole and the Negatives, featured Jill Sobule and Dave Derby (Dambuilders). And Scottish melancholics Camera Obscura wrote a cheeky response to the Rattlesnakes tune “Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?” (Naturally, “Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken.”)

With such a c.v., it’s criminal that Cole isn’t a household name. (Heck, the Commotions’ second album, Easy Pieces, is out of print and still expensive online – I grabbed a copy last night for $14! And that’s cheap!) Still, he's certainly had a very busy 2009. First, there’s a four-album odds ‘n sods collection, Cleaning Out the Ashtrays. Then there’s the domestic release of a deluxe version of Rattlesnakes, with a second disc of goodies. Next, have we mentioned the U.S.-only download of a Black Sessions MP3 album, a concert recorded in the mid-‘90s? Or how about the pair of live acoustic albums, parts one and two of the new Folksinger series?

This all brings us to January’s small tour, which will no doubt be a treat for those who get to see it. To tide you over until then, here’s a live show from Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, recorded February 28, 1985 in Hamburg, Germany.

complete zipped download

1. Sweetness
2. Perfect Skin
3. Patience
4. Jesus Said
5. Down On Mission Street
6. 2 CV
7. Charlotte Street
8. Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken
9. Rattlesnakes
10. Four Flights Up
11. Perfect Blue
12. Andy's Babies
13. Speedboat
14. Forest Fire

  • Tim

    Love your work Annie! Nicely written blog. Lucky you getting the Trio performing in your area.

  • anniezaleski

    thanks for the kind words, tim! sadly, i live in st. louis so i don't think i'll be able to make the show — weeknights are tough. but i think i'm sending mr. wardlaw in my place!

  • http://www.myspace.com/carlostropicana carlos tropicana

    thought you might like some more lloyd facts: http://hotlcommunique.blogspot.com/2008/08/ladi

  • Tim

    Love your work Annie! Nicely written blog. Lucky you getting the Trio performing in your area.

  • anniezaleski

    thanks for the kind words, tim! sadly, i live in st. louis so i don't think i'll be able to make the show — weeknights are tough. but i think i'm sending mr. wardlaw in my place!

  • http://www.myspace.com/carlostropicana carlos tropicana

    thought you might like some more lloyd facts: http://hotlcommunique.blogspot.com/2008/08/ladi

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