Cole emerged from Glasgow in 1984 fully formed as the poet laureate
of sensitive, serious cynics, awed by both the grandeur of great
romance and great books, with perfect skin, pristinely glimmering
melodies, and oh yes, that catch-in-your-heart voice. Sixteen years
later, Lloyd is one of the few songwriters of that era who still
endures working his craft other than the international superstars
(U2, REM) or the intriguing oddballs (Morrissey, Paul Westerberg),
with a voice as interesting and insightful as ever.
Now, with three new albums coming this year - his first since 1995's
acclaimed "Love Story" - and a stepped-up touring schedule
- this may well be the time that Lloyd is welcomed into the continuing
tradition of the elder statesmen singer/songwriters, the kind like
Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and Richard Thompson, whose work continues
to both surprise, yet deepen, with time.
"In the early days of The Commotions, I used to get really
upset when someone would call me a singer-songwriter. I'd say, 'No,
I'm a writer.' "Ah, snotty kids," Cole says, with a laugh.
"But now I'm definitely making claim to being part of a certain
tradition. I'm not sure if I'll be accepted yet, but I certainly
have an understanding of what I've done for the last 15 years. It's
a wide tradition. I include Ray Davies, and I'd include Paul Simon.
But I wouldn't include Joy Division or the Pet Shop Boys, as much
as I love them. I don't like the term singer-songwriter, but that's
what I am."
Only on the first of these three records, Lloyd Cole and the Negatives,
Lloyd is not the lone acoustic singer/songwriter, but rather backed
by a full-time band - including Jill Sobule and former Dambuilders
bassist Dave Derby - for the first time since the Commotions split
in 1988. Mixed largely by Stephen Street (Smiths, Blur, Cranberries),
the Negatives contains what should be a sure-fire hit among new
fans with the infectious "Impossible Girl," and songs
like "Past Imperfect," with so many nods to Lloyd's older
songs that long-time listeners will delight in spotting the references.
And it all came about almost by accident.