From his stunning debut with The Commotions on 1984’s Rattlesnakes, Lloyd Cole has continued to make intelligent pop music for the last three decades. With lyrics referencing literary and pop culture figures as well as chronicling the ebb and flow of personal relationships, Cole touches the mind as well as the heart.
After a period as an acoustic troubadour, Cole has reunited with some early solo career colleagues to make Standards, a return to the jangly guitar milieu of Don’t Get Weird On Me Babe-era sounds. We spoke with Cole prior to his March 29th appearance at Nashville’s City Winery.
Your new album finds you returning to the electric guitar sound of your earlier albums. Was the title a conscious reference to that?
I don’t remember why I called it Standards, really. I just liked the sound of it and I knew that some people would think it was me being snotty or arrogant, calling it Standards, and I always like to rub those people the wrong way (laughter). I guess there’s still a bit of the snotty kid who titled an album Mainstream twenty-eight years ago still there inside me.
I was happy to see you reunited with Matthew Sweet. I’ve been a fan of his since the Buzz of Delight days in the ‘80s Athens, GA scene.
On (Lloyd Cole and The Commotions’) first tour of America, we had a great time in Athens. We wound up having about three days off there, just one of those scheduling things where there were no gigs and we were booked for three days in some nasty hotel. We met some local kids who had a big house and we moved out of the hotel and went to stay with them. I think we drank a lot, probably.
What was it like picking up the electric guitar and getting back together with Matthew and Fred Maher, with whom you had recorded twenty years earlier? Did it feel familiar, strange…
It was, strangely, exactly the same. It wasn’t even familiar, it was the SAME. After a couple of hours on the first day, we looked at each other and said, “Well, this works (laughter).” The combination of the three of us just works and it’s really hard to explain. Fred takes a week to remember the title of a song and Matthew knows how the song goes before I finish telling him. They learn in very different ways but they play together really well. They’ve played on Matthew’s records and on my records, they just play bass and drums together really well in a way that really suits with how I play rhythm guitar and write songs. When we were recording, I played the guitar and sang the songs live. Matthew and I were in the control room, Fred was in the drum room and it just felt weirdly identical.