Great Albums: Rattlesnakes

Lloyd Cole and the Commotions – Rattlesnakes (1984)

Lloyd Cole and the Commotions – Rattlesnakes (1984)

I’d met Goldie through my friend Colin around 1983, I think. With his thinning hair and permanent scowl, he looked like a perennially pissed off old man. We shared a love for punk, even though he was somehow affiliated with the strange evangelical subculture I’d recently become part of. I remember him bringing us Dead Boys records when Colin and I were in residence at Bible College. We’d play those and Colin’s Zapp funk records as loud as we could, enjoying the vicarious thrill of swearing and talking sexy. I remember Goldie and I commandeering the lounge television one night when Rock ‘n’ Roll High School was on. So we shared a taste in music and a slightly skeptical attitude toward the world around us.

Around 1984, our tastes were broadening. Goldie was the first one to tip me off to The Style Council, a new direction from The Jam‘s Paul Weller. So it was no surprise when he showed up one afternoon with a home-recorded tape that he wanted me to hear. Side A was Eden by Everything But The Girl, well before their dance music days. Though I enjoyed Tracey Thorn’s soulful vocals, I was much more interested in Side B, which Goldie hadn’t even mentioned.

Lloyd Cole’s anguished voice and whipsmart lyrics drew me in. Here was a guy who seemed impossibly sophisticated and world-weary at the same time. Every song was tinged with regret but filled with literary barbs and wry humour. One of my favourite lines is from Four Flights Up: “Must you tell me all your secrets when it’s hard enough to love you knowing nothing?” The songs had a sophistication that screamed Europe but the album title sounded American. And Lloyd seemed worldly enough to know New York, London and Paris equally well. This guy was flat out cool, like an upper class and definitely more hetero Morrissey.

In the same vicarious way that I listened to Zapp and the Dead Boys, I absorbed the heartbreak and romantic adventures of Lloyd Cole. I didn’t have anywhere near that sort of experience (and still don’t), but when on the final track Lloyd sang “Are You Ready to be Heartbroken?” I wanted to jump up and scream out “Yes!”

Track Listing

  1. Perfect Skin
  2. Speedboat
  3. Rattlesnakes
  4. Down on Mission Street
  5. Forest Fire
  6. Charlotte Street
  7. 2cv
  8. Four Flights Up
  9. Patience
  10. Are You Ready to be Heartbroken?

Lloyd Cole’s weblog
“Perfect Skin” video on YouTube
“Forest Fire” video on YouTube

Great Albums is an occasional feature on Consolation Champs where I relate some personal stories about life-changing music in lieu of any proper music criticism. You’ll probably learn more about me than about music, so consider that fair warning. For more, click the Great Albums category tag.

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