Outpost in the Burbs
Friday, Sept. 13, 8 p.m
First Congregational Church,
40 South Fullerton Ave.
By GWEN OREL
Lloyd Cole’s latest album, his 14th album, sounds a little like his first: “Rattlesnakes,” which came out in 1984, from Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, had some ’80s electric sound in it. That first album from the British musician made references to such literary figures as Simone de Beauvoir and Joan Didion, and stars such as Grace Kelly and Eva Marie Saint. His song “Perfect Skin” was a hit in 1985, and includes the line “she’s got cheekbones like geometry and eyes like sin, and she’s sexually enlightened by Cosmopolitan.” Thirty-five years later, the lyrics Cole sings on “Guesswork,” which came out in July, show observations from life as well those of a curious eye. After The Commotions broke up in 1989, Cole moved to New York City. He married an American and often records in his Massachusetts attic studio. For this album, he collaborated with Neil Clark and Blair Cowan, former members of The Commotions, as well as drummer Fred Maher, who has performed on many of Cole’s early solo albums. He’ll play a solo show at Outpost in the Burbs on Friday, Sept. 13.
You record in a home studio?
I’m not sure if it’s a studio. It’s half a golf putting green. It’s a green carpet, the same color as a golf course. In the winter I practice.
Why did you want an electronic sound?
Once turned into my mid-’40s I thought I would be making quiet, introspective music the rest of my career. Instead I wrote songs that demanded a rocking beat, and made a record much louder than I thought.
When got over the exhaustion of producing that one, I thought, what do I want to do now?Try to make record more like the music I like to listen to.
I thought, “Maybe I can bring experimental music ideas to some of the pop song.” Could I make a record like Scott 3, or “The Idiot,” which [David] Bowie and Iggy [Pop] made in Berlin?
Then I stewed on idea for four years and did nothing. I was touring. Finally I got around to doing it at the beginning of 2018.
I knew I would have to try it, and I knew it would involve me being up here in the attic a lot. It’s a pretty thankless task being the singer and engineer and producer. It’s more fun with an ensemble cast. I had to make it up as I went along.
What was it like, working that way?
We worked remotely. Neal was in Toronto, Blair in Glasgow. We worked with files flying on the internet, Facetime and Skype, in a way we would have discussed in the studio. I couldn’t stand next to Neal and say “That’s all great expect that bit.” I have to say “Listen to the file, and say “Everything’s great except bars 30 to 50.” It takes a lot of time but I was able to get exactly the kind of record I want.
The thing about being in the room is you do have to trust spontaneity. What happens in the room six to seven times out of 10 is you get it right. Three to four times you have to start again. This way we kept working until we got it right.
But it’s the only practical solution these days. Budgets are miniscule, and it’s easy to dig into financial hole. It is still easy to forget we don’t make any money from records anymore. We are paid for playing concerts.
Have you played the Outpost before?
No, I never have. It’s always exciting to come somewhere new. I’ve been in Montclair once, a friend has studio there. I’ve heard it called the Brighton of New York.
Brighton of NY. We left Brooklyn and moved to Massachusetts in 1999, when my second child was born. We moved three hours north.
What are you planning for your show?
I’ll play two sets. It’s not really got anything to do with the new album. Any time a new album comes out it’s a slightly different tour than the last one. I’ll play songs from 1983 to today. I’ve already planned some from this album, acoustic versions… all of them were written on guitar.
What keeps you going in music after all these years?
I want to. I’m also driven by… I don’t have economic freedom, I have to work. I want to keep working, but I don’t have a choice. Luckily I still pick up my notebook and write down scraps. I want to make music. Sometimes I think, “Wouldn’t it be lovely to spend a couple of years making albums, and a huge suite of music,” but not touring would kill me.
When I started, I was very much a fan, to be able to meet Morrissey was massively exciting.
I love the idea of the pop song. Most of my work is in making pop songs, a brilliant uplifting three-minute thing that can keep your day feel better. The way I apprenticed to being a musician was being a fan.
I followed my heroes. I learned how to be a pop singer from T. Rex, David Bowie. Punk Rock came along when I was 16, The Buzzcocks, the Sex Pistols. It got very boring very soon.
What are your hobbies?
I twiddle around with synthesizers for fun, and crossword puzzles as well… I put the patterns into music. I read, and I’m sudoku-addicted these days. I’ve become a fairly avid cyclist as well, I’m a lot fitter in my ’50s than I was in my ’40s. In the Northeast in the winter, when the snow comes down, it’s almost impossible to do anything. Last winter I bit the bullet and went to the gym. This winter I will be on tour.