Lloyd Cole and the Commotions – Rattlesnakes

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

I bought this album twice. I figured I could get by with a Best of and sold my copy of the debut. The second time, I ended up with the West German release. The West German release will not play straight through; it pauses at the conclusion of each track and you have to push a button on the remote or your CD player to skip to the next track. Very annoying, West Germany. If you can’t properly manufacture CDs, how could you expect to keep up with the Stasi? Anyway, this was Lloyd Cole and the Commotions’ debut, coming out of Scotland in 1984.

What I Think of This Album

Lloyd Cole either:  a) got beat up a lot; b) charmed the underwear off his romantic conquests; c) both a) and b); or d) is simply adopting the persona of c). I tend to vote d). Maybe it’s wishful thinking, but I detect a sly wink behind all these ridiculous songs. And they are completely absurd. Cole comes across like the most annoying intellectual post-grad ever, oh so casually referencing Norman Mailer, Simone de Beauvoir, Truman Capote, and the New York Times; giving a nod to film critic Renata Adler; quoting Joan Didion; and rhyming “Eve Marie Saint” with On the Waterfront. Also, “She’s got cheekbones like geometry” is not the impressive lyric Cole thinks it is. All of this is fully deserving of a punch in the face. Yet Cole still comes across a smooth operator, with cool detachment and an appealing, rich voice. And the excellent guitar work of Neil Clark is a huge plus.

“Perfect Skin” is like Dylan backed by Richard Lloyd playing the Byrds, and trying to seduce every woman on campus at once. The soul-ish “Speedboat” is odd and entrancing, with a heavy keyboard presence. This song name-checks Leonard Cohen. Cole manages to make the string-drenched title track not insufferable, against all odds.

“Down On Mission Street” is somber and mysterious, with a vaguely Eastern melody in places. One thing the West Germans got very right was including the extended version of “Forest Fire,” which provides you with valuable extra seconds of Clark’s incandescent concluding solo. Cole approaches sincerity on the sweet “Charlotte Street,” with great jangle courtesy of Clark. Dylan is once again the touchstone on the folk/country “2cv,” which might as well have been a Nashville Skyline track. The country tack is further pursued on the sprightly “Four Flights Up.”

An insistent bass pushes against the silk curtains that the string section drapes over the stately “Patience,” in which Cole effectively grows more desperate (though the near-falsetto is not awesome) before remembering the title of the song and pulling back again. “Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?” is a fucking classic, with a deadpan delivery from Cole and nimble picking by Clark; the answer song “Lloyd, I’m Ready to Be Heartbroken” by Camera Obscura is a necessary listen.

The West Germans were kind enough to tack on four extra tracks, all B-sides to the singles from the album. Clark and bassist Lawrence Donegan carry the tuneful “Sweetness.” There is little to like about “Andy’s Babies,” and “The Sea and the Sand” could’ve been something more than it is. “You Will Never Be No Good” is a decent song, with a bassline that reminds me of Echo and the Bunnymen and some cool pyrotechnics from Clark.

This was a fairly democratic affair, with the songwriting being split between Cole, and Cole collaborating with each of Clark, Donegan, and keyboardist Blair Cowan.

The Best Thing About This Album

I am going to give Neil Clark’s underrated guitar playing the nod here.

Release Date

October, 1984

The Cover Art

This is a photograph by Richard Farber. I find it a bit morose. The text is also difficult to read.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Proudly powered by WordPress | Theme: Baskerville 2 by Anders Noren.

Up ↑