Sunday, 19 May 2013

Desert Island Discs - 3 Rattlesnakes Lloyd Cole and the Commotions

3 Rattlesnakes by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions 1984

I didn't have any older brothers or sisters , my parents weren't into any kind of culture really and I grew up in the land that time forgot.

The guide to what to see what to read could only come from records. So when this and the following lp came out I hoovered it up - Norman Mailer (I skipped getting a new tailor) Joan Didion, Laughing Len etc. all lifted from the lps lyrics.

Perfect Skin was one of those hits that seemed to come from nowhere. I knew the words must be important because they didn't quite scan and rushed out of Lloyd Cole's mouth , tumbling over themselves , not quite fitting the tune ,as if not one syllable could be sacrificed . Full of quotable lines that if you quoted to anyone would immediately make you seem like a tosser so could only form part of an inner monologue. All backed by the kind of guitar lines that no one else seemed to be playing.

The Commotions took the look west mantra of mid 80s Scottish bands in a way that was different from the rest.

I still remember getting the lp with its cover that told you everything and nothing and a photo of a band somehow looking cool and uncomfortable at the same time , I mean one of them had a beard. ( I can quite confidently state that at the time I owned nothing by anyone with beard.)

I was worried that Perfect Skin would be a one off, but wonders of wonders much as I loved it , it was one of the worst things the lp.

The Play it as it Lays inspired title track had the perfect combination of acoustic guitars and strings (who cares if synthetic or real) that I don't think has been bettered

... and in Forest Fire there was the guitar solo for people who didn't like guitar solos

Like a book of short stories with minor characters (all with the J initial) you always got the feeling that Lloyd would rather be Raymond Carver than leading a band.

I remember thinking when I hearing Speedboat, this is what going to college would be like - "Julie said we drink far too much coffee ,wine and cigarettes and we never get  no sleep" (he loves a double negative does Lloyd)  and it cemented the feeling that High Land had started the year earlier that I had to get away from the flat lands. When I did eventually go to Leeds poly this was the first lp on the record player as I sat in my room waiting for whatever happened next

Right from the off there isn't a duff track on the lp and it started a journey which ,having just checked, means I have 202 Lloyd Cole songs on my mp3 player.

I can't believe that anyone who has stuck with this blog doesn't have this lp, so here is something a little different , a track that didn't make the final cut

Beautiful City - Lloyd Cole and the Commotions


  1. This album is preserved in aspic for me because I never really followed up on it. Everything I heard from post-Rattlesnakes Lloyd just sounded not quite as good as this. However Rattlesnakes has always retained a certain sheen in my mind and also a connection to Jude the Obscure which I was reading when I bought this. He managed the difficult task of being precious without being cringeworthy, although you could visualise him walking around college with a Camus novel peeking from his overcoat pocket.
    I'll be listening to this again and given all the praise for Lloyd's work after this I will also give that a chance.

  2. I love your description of LC's word-play! I gave Rattlesnakes a listen today, 'coz I was sure it was coming up soon. My god, is there a more pretentious album ever? I mean that in a good way of course! I'd also forgotten how prominent LC's quirky vocal inflections were, which mysteriously disappeared on the solo work. And what a fantastic backing band, eh? I love Robert Quine's guitar on the solo stuff, but Clark's playing is stunning...

    My Top 4 Commotions: 1) Hey Rusty, 2) Patience, 3) Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken? 4)Brand New Friend


    - I warned of left-field entries in the final stretch, here's one that's bound to alienate... When I bought this, I'm pretty sure I went to the the record shop seeking out "Ladies & Gentleman We Are Floating In Space" after hearing the title track in that crap film Vanilla Sky. Not in stock, but the stoner behind the counter said this new album was f***ing awesome! It also came in a face-moulded vinyl 3D jewel-case which was so cool! I'd never had any interest in Spiritualized, dismissing the band as a bunch of drugged-up, spaced-out shoegazers. But the stoner dude in the store was right... this album is flipping awesome! I'm not normally a connoisseur of chaotic over-cooked music, fractured drowzy vocals, and repetitous unsophisticated lyrics, but from first listen I fell head over heels in love with Let It Come Down.

    Musically, it's majestic & bombastic... This makes the Waterboys' "big music" seem awfully miniscule. A schizophrenic musical stew of massive strings & brass orchestra, grand gospel choirs, jazzy improvization, bleepy electronica, howling feedback, harmonica & um, the kitchen sink. There's no way it should work, but somehow it does... beautifully.

    Jason Pierce's lyrics are intimate and heartfelt, consisting of themes of blazing contradiction - scepticism/belief, judgment/redemption, Jesus/devil, heaven/hell, depression/hope, the joys/complications of drugs & drink, and um peace & love? Glorious, agnostic gospel music is the best description I can come up with. Pierce isn't tying to convert anybody here, and I'm not likely to persuade anyone to love this album, but at least give it a listen. In the dark, alone, get lost in the hypnotic bliss...

    Oh, and don't forget the headphones. The clips do no justice...

    Anything More:
    The Straight And The Narrow:
    Don't Just Do Something:
    Stop You Crying:
    Do It All Over Again:

    1. Hi Tim I've tried with Spriit... but I've never been a big fan of "drowzy vocals" and in the past could never get past JP's voice. Going to give it another go

    2. Might be slog. I understand... sometimes a voice is just intolerable. I can't explain why JP's narcoleptic drawl isn't a turn-off for me. Even the stripped down Acoustic Mainline tour he did was incredibly moving...

  3. Crap, I forgot Forest Fire in my Top... 5!

  4. Forest Fire. What a solo. No 'cock' in that 'rock'. Perfect... I cannot believe I placed this in the 100s...
    I am muppet!
    Just got Easy Pieces for the car after Issy's recommendation. 'Hey Rusty' is magnificent...
    Spiritulized I need to revisit TT. I know 'Floating' but not this...

    1. Hey Rusty always appeared to me an attempt at a Springsteen style narrative, but with a LC twist... "Then I got a job, white collar, turncoat." I love the groove and the way the drums "pop", perhaps due to Stewart Copeland's production assistance.

  5. Sorry, not 'Easy Pieces' but 'Mainstream'...

    1. Mainstream is a bit of a lost classic (much better than the 2nd lp). I remember a bemused commotions performing My Bag on wogans chat show. Sean Penn Blues and the My beautiful Launderette inspired Mr Malcontent showed Lloyd at his creative lyrical best and Jennifer She Said is so commotions it is almost a wonderful self parody

    2. I'd totally forgotten about 'Mainstream' until Issy reminded me. It's fabulous, although sounds like it could do with a remaster. I'm not sure that they remastered 'Rattlesnakes' when they did the recent box set. Could be a sign that the Master Tapes went AWOL...

  6. I was expecting this to show up soon, I know how you love this album. Everything's been said , hasn't it? I like the album a lot too. Don't play it as much as I should , I feel. Now you've got me stumped for your top 2, One artist I'm sure is there, but the second?...
    Tim - I've begun to expect the unexpected from you! I don't know what I was expecting Spiritualized to sound like but it's nothing like your clips. I'm off to order the album. Very good indeed
    # 3 Smirk all you want! Aztec Camera - Love
    A couple of live acoustic numbers:
    Killermont Street
    How Men Are
    Somewhere In My Heart

  7. Phil: Good on ya for not caving to our swipes at "Love."

    Also, my apologies for my ribbing about exclusion of LC on your list. Trev (my shrink) recently diagnosed me with being musically overprotective of my faves. I'm sure I deserve a real thrashing myself for my exclusion of Bowie, Costello et al... My best friend of 30 years Eric, shares nearly identical taste in music. His Top 30 would pretty much mirror mine, except for one. He just doesn't get Blue Nile!!! I've done my best to persuade & convert him, but he's just plain indifferent. Incomprehensible to me, but just goes to prove that taste in music is truly subjective. You can get out of the corner...

  8. Why? The corner's cosy...
    Cannot remember that diagnosis TT. I love that you love your music so; makes me all the more humble when you whisper my name. And I'm in need of protection...
    Eric however is obviously in need of some deep water therapy to improve his musical life.
    I've just the location...


Leave a comment and let me know what you are listening to.