At this point in his "so-called career", Cole is crowdfunding and getting excellent young guests on board
Lloyd Cole was a proper star in the '80s, thanks to the three albums he did with his band, the Commotions, and has been consistently releasing music since their 1989 split. He’s just released his tenth solo album, Standards. Unsurprisingly, it’s a brilliant piece of work because Cole is genetically incapable of making a bad record. Surprisingly, though, it’s the rockingest thing he’s done in decades.
“I’m very happy with that record,” he admits. “At this stage in my so-called career, I have to just go where it seems interesting to me. It’s not always easy to want to make any more music. Sometimes I feel like, 'Well, that’s quite enough music by me, maybe it’s time to do something else.' But I’m still excited by certain ideas.”
Cole is going to be stuck in music for the foreseeable, though, not least because he’s in an enviable position at the moment. Standards has done well in Europe and the UK, he’s still able to tour all over the world – hence his forthcoming Australian solo acoustic jaunt – and he’s about to get the rights to a healthy slab of his back catalogue “…so I need to figure out what to do with it.”
He explains plans for deluxe reissues and it becomes clear that Lloyd Cole has become his own cottage industry. And it’s a serious business too, since the students that once carried around copies of 1984's Rattlesnakes are now his patrons: Standards was an entirely crowdfunded release. And when he says entirely, he means it.
“When you budget for a record, one of the things that most people forget to put down is how much it costs to live for a year,” he chuckles darkly. “Unless you’re a gentleman of leisure, you have to budget for that serious chunk of time in which you’re not earning anything.”
It was also done with remarkable haste in order to work with his preferred rhythm section of Fred Maher (late of Scritti Politti and frequent Lou Reed drummer) and Matthew Sweet (yes, as in the singer/songwriter who did ‘Girlfriend’). Both were keen and available… for a two-week window, in just under three months time. To record an album for which Cole had completed exactly two songs.
It seemed like an impossible task, and Cole was ready to postpone. “But I thought, ‘OK, I’ll put the call out [to fans], and if we can raise enough money in a month I’ll commit to doing it.’ And that’s what we did. And it came together really quickly.”
Sweet and Maher anchor the record, which also features Joan “As Policewoman” Wasser and fellow Commotion Blair Cowan. It makes Standards sound more like the work of a band than any Cole album in decades, perhaps best demonstrated by the song that opens the album: a muscular version of John Hartford’s ‘California Earthquake’. Cole’s done the occasional cover, but beginning an album with one?
“It was never the intention to open the album with it,” he explains. “I knew the song because of a version I have of Mama Cass doing it. And we were recording in LA, so I had it in the back of my head and it just seemed to make sense. And it’s a song that’s quite malleable: it seemed perfect to do some sort of Krautrock version of it.”
A Scots artist doing a German version of a West Coast anthem?
“Exactly,” he laughs. “I forced Fred and Matthew to listen to Neu! every day in the studio.”
Lloyd Cole also plays the Caravan Club in Oakleigh on Thursday, June 26.