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  • Alistair Braidwood

In praise of: Lloyd Cole

An attempt to celebrate a more modern Scotland will be the series of Homecoming Live concerts that are to be held at various venues in Glasgow on 28th/29th November. You can click on this link ( to see the line-ups and other info, but it gives me the great excuse to write about another of my heroes; Lloyd Cole. Lloyd is appearing on what is obviously the nostalgia bill alongside Deacon Blue, Hue and Cry, The Bluebells and Midge ‘Jim’ Ure. But, while I have nothing against a little nostalgic trip, I think Cole deserves better than that. When people are pushed for the ‘greatest album of the 1980’s’ the usual suspects normally include The Clash’s London Calling (yes, I know it was released in the dying days of the 1970’s), The Pogues’ Rum, Sodomy and the Lash, De La Soul’s Three Feet High, and Rising, Dare by the Human League, REM’s Green, anything by The Smiths, Public Enemy, Elvis Costello, Prince… and so on as I realise it was a mistake to start such a list here. But the record I have not only played most, but also means most is… well, it’s actually The Blue Nile’s Hats, but I’ll deal with them at length later. A close second would be Lloyd Cole and the Commotions’ 1984 debut Rattlesnakes.

Rattlesnakes is a thing of beauty and a joy forever. Lyrical, melodic, heart breaking and arch, it ticked so many boxes for a young man with pretensions, and it still does now that the same man is, slightly, less idealistic and has a dickey ankle. People concentrated on Lloyd’s vocals and lyrics, but they found a perfect partner in Neil Clark’s twangy guitar. I could have picked any of the tracks to play as every song’s a winner, but the following video of Forest Fire is pretty rare and it gives the uninitiated a great idea of what to expect from the rest of the album. basically if you don’t like it, then perhaps Rattlesnakes is not for you:

It’s difficult to follow a debut that arrives perfectly formed, and although The Commotions still produced great songs, nothing matched Rattlesnakes and they split up in 1989. Lloyd inevitably went solo, and I thought the first, self titled album, was terrific, but unfortunately not many others did and, with rumours abound of a serious golf habit, many folk, including myself, thought that would be that. Moody troubadours were out of fashion at the time as the funky-drummer beat and over-sized clothes took over this part of the world while distorted guitars began to wail over the Atlantic. But in the mid-90’s I bought his album Love Story and fell all over again. Since then I’ve kept buying his music and have seen him live whenever I can. He doesn’t let me down. This is a favourite of mine, and of whoever took this film by the sound of it. It’s called Undressed:

There are a few musicians whose music grows as they and their audience do but they’re rarer than you think. Elvis Costello, Kate Bush, Roddy Frame and Boo Hewerdine are a few I can think of off the top of my head. These are the company in which Lloyd Cole belongs. If you get the chance to see him live I urge you to do so, especially if you were a fan of The Commotions. He invites you in with the promise of old favourites, but it’s the newer stuff that stays with you afterwards. Just like the perfect Homecoming.

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