Lloyd Cole and the Commotions “Rattlesnakes”

 

Today’s Cool Album of the Day (#752 in the Series) is Lloyd Cole & The Commotions, Rattlesnakes

Glasgow, Scotland in the early 80’s was full to brimming with raw musical talent and inspiration, with new bands springing up all over the place. The independent label Postcard Records was a small but major player, they had two fantastic bands, Orange Juice and Aztec Camera, who recorded seminal singles before moving on to bigger labels where both released superb debut albums.

Other acts like Altered Images, The Bluebells  and Friends Again swiftly followed and I can’t fail to mention The Blue Nile whose single “Tinseltown In The Rain” may well be the best ever by a Scots band.

All of which meant that when Lloyd Cole & The Commotions headed into an East London studio to record their debut album they had quite a challenge on their hands, deliver a quality release or be swept away in the tide. It was a challenge they rose to magnificently, producing an absolute delight of an album, a sparkling effervescent classic.

Formed in 1982 by the English-born Lloyd and some fellow Glasgow University students they struggled to find a definitive style at first, something which changed when they ditched a soul sound which had been heavy on the keyboards and started playing to their two main strengths, the superb guitar skills of Neil Clark and the witty, clever romanticism of Cole’s lyrics. In no time at all they were recording demos and were quickly snapped up by Polydor Records,

Lloyd Cole & The Commotions eventually announced themselves to the world at large in early 1984 with the release of “Perfect Skin”, a glorious single which seemingly featured Lloyd pining for Louise, some gorgeous and unobtainable girl of his acquaintance who has:

“cheekbones like geometry and eyes like sin and she’s sexually enlightened by Cosmopolitan.”

It was a fantastic debut.

It was also a mere taster for the full album “Rattlesnakes” which followed a few months later, and indeed it became the first song on the album. The rest of Side One was equally as good, containing a further four songs, two of which also became singles in their own right. “Forest Fire” was a slow-building, smouldering delight and the title track may well be the best song on the album, fuelled by Anne Dudley’s wonderful, hook-laden string arrangement it soared wonderfully.

And if you think they’d tried to be smart by placing all the best tunes on at the start you’d be in for a surprise, Side Two is possibly even better, crammed with a further five gems.

“2cv” highlights Cole’s laconic, laid-back vocal style and gives a clue as to why he became an 80’s student bedsit icon to rival Morrissey :

“Inside a rented room, coloured deepest blue / I suppose we found some kind of happiness ..…..…….to fill the emptiness”

Not exactly getting carried away on the wings of love was he!

That’s a sentiment which carries on into the next track “Four Flights Up” which is utterly wonderful, a country-ish romp which, for my money, is one of the greatest “singles which never were”, a surefire hit if it had been released at the time. It also has Lloyd lamenting:

“Must you tell me all your secrets when it’s hard enough to love you knowing nothing / we’re living four flights up but I swear right now it feels like underground”

What a charmer.

Last but not least was “Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken,” with titles like that  you can kinda tell how he got the reputation as a corduroy jacket, black polo neck clad poet for the indie generation.

Lloyd’s lyrics documented the lives and loves of both himself and his  group of friends, and fans bought into his little world big time. There’s a distinct early Lou Reed influence to them, back when Lou used to tell tales about the set that hung out in Andy Warhol’s Factory studios. However, whereas Reed was likely to stumble across some character shooting Class A drugs in the bathroom, Lloyd was more inclined to just bump into an ex-girlfriend enjoying a good book in the Uni library. And invite her out for a nice cup of tea. Lovely boy.

All in all it added up to a fantastic debut album which remains fresh and vital to this date, its quality. And quality is simply timeless.

— Stephen Dalrymple, Glasgow, Scotland

Track listing

All songs were written by Lloyd Cole, except where noted.

  1. “Perfect Skin” – 3:16
  2. “Speedboat” – 4:37
  3. “Rattlesnakes” (Cole, Neil Clark) – 3:28
  4. “Down on Mission Street” – 3:49
  5. “Forest Fire” – 4:39
  6. “Charlotte Street” – 3:55
  7. “2cv” – 2:52
  8. “Four Flights Up” (Cole, Lawrence Donegan) – 2:37
  9. “Patience” (Cole, Blair Cowan) – 3:40
  10. “Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?” (Cole, Clark) – 3:06

Personnel

  • Lloyd Cole – vocals, guitar
  • Neil Clark – guitar
  • Blair Cowan – keyboards
  • Lawrence Donegan – bass guitar
  • Stephen Irvine – drums, tambourine

Give Lloyd Cole and The Commotions a listen…

Here is the album live…

Posted by Larry Carta


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