Lloyd Cole is forever young and loving it

LLOYD COLE: Back with rock and roll.
LLOYD COLE: Back with rock and roll.

The fault lies squarely with the mohawk sported by centrepiece of the Clash, Joe Strummer.

Since releasing Rattlesnakes with the Commotions in 1984 and going solo in 1990, British singer/songwriter Lloyd Cole has released many albums and completed numerous tours, but says he feels he has found rock ‘n roll again with his latest album, Standards.

"I thought I'd finished making records like that," Cole says. "I thought I was going to be making quiet records for the rest of my life. To be honest, I thought a bit too much about what was appropriate for a gentleman of a certain age to make. I was horrified when Joe Strummer got his mohawk too late. It was one of the worst things that ever happened in rock'n'roll. Someone who helped invent punk rock all of a sudden looked like a member of Crass or something."

Cole confesses he has always been frightened of committing such a crime.

But when asked to review Bob Dylan's album Tempest for a British magazine last year, he changed his tune.

"I listened to it on repeat for a day. It made me cry about three times. But what really struck me is that Bob Dylan doesn't have any idea how old he is.

"I worried so much about the Joe Strummer mohawk that I didn't make rock'n'roll music, even though I'm quite good at it, for a long time. I thought ‘what would happen if I didn't worry about how old I was?' Standards is what happened."

He went to his attic room, sat down at his desk and wrote for 8-10 hours a day for 10 weeks.

"It was a break from the way I have been working in previous years. I had led myself to believe that working in that fashion was the kind of thing that jingle writers do," Cole says.

"Rather than waiting for a muse to appear, I sat down and wrote it. I knew it was good, I knew it wasn't rubbish and I knew I had to produce it."

When these songs "hinted" that they "might want to be recorded with a rock'n'roll ensemble", Cole turned to his favourite rhythm section, the people who played on his first two solo albums, drummer Fred Maher and bassist Matthew Sweet.

"They both live in Los Angeles and both said yes but the window of opportunity was small which is why I had 10 weeks to write the album."

It was recorded in a week.

"There are no mirrors in the room and you're doing what you're doing. After a few hours it felt the same, we're all quite a lot older but what we're doing is exactly the same. It just might be that we're better at it now, 25 years later."

Cole then travelled to Bochum, Germany, in the depths of a grey winter to have the album mixed by a "mad scientist".

"He made the record sound quite vibrant."

Blue Like Mars is the result of Cole "trying to write a space song aged 51", although he says it's normally the thing to write a space song in your 20s. His son, William, 21, played guitar on the track.

"He's been doing his own music and with his band for the last few years, he's great. He offers an aesthetic different to mine which is important. He brings the record alive in a way we insiders couldn't."

Lyrically, Cole is pleased to have completed a song called Women's Studies 20 years after it first hit his notebook.

"That song and Kids Today are the lyrics I'm happiest with."

New Zealand's appreciation for Cole reaches back 30 years to early Lloyd Cole and the Commotions albums like Rattlesnakes and Easy Pieces and songs like Lost Weekend, Perfect Skin and Jennifer She Said.

Los Angeles-based Kiwi Greg Johnson will play a rare solo set alongside Cole on this tour, celebrating the release of Some Other Place, Some Other Time - The Greg Johnson Anthology on Universal Records.

Cole is looking forward to familiarising himself with Johnson's songs.

The last time Cole performed in Christchurch was a week before the 2011 earthquake, when he was touring his album Broken Record.

"It was weird to think that happened so soon after we left. I have no idea what to expect when I'm back but I am intrigued and excited to see the Cardboard Cathedral.

"Hopefully we won't make a mess of it."


Lloyd Cole and special guest Greg Johnson perform at the Cardboard Cathedral, 8pm tonight. Full details of the New Zealand tour here

The Press