Kids Today - Lloyd Cole (from 'Standards' LP)
If you had told me even back in October that one of my favourite records of 2013 would be by Lloyd Cole I would have laughed in your face, asked you what you’d been drinking and could I have a wee nip of it too please? Not that I had anything against Lloyd as such. I mean, yes, back in 1984 the ‘Rattlensakes’ album was certainly one of my most played discs, and even into 1985 I was spinning ‘Lost Weekend’ and the ‘Easy Pieces’ set on a regular basis but gosh, yes, I suppose also I fell into believing the music press backlash when they started laughing about Cole’s golfing or whatever it was… Besides which there were a million and one other fresher, more exciting sounds to explore so no regrets and all that.
I am not certain why I suddenly decided to listen to ‘Standards’ so late in the year. I had let it pass me by on its release, vaguely aware but deeming it unnecessary to investigate. We all of us miss so many little treasures along the routes of our lives like this of course, and it is no judgement. Those lives can often feel too full already and anyway the thought of digging something just because it is the fashion du jour feels somewhat hilariously pointless at my age. Not that I imagine Lloyd Cole’s record was promoted as being fashionable. Was it? I see by flicking through YouTube that he appeared on that dreadful ‘Later'* show with Jools Holland. Oh my.
Regardless, ‘Standards’ has ended up one of my most played records of 2013. From the terrific opening salvo of a muscular** reading of John Hartford’s wonderful ‘California Earthquake’ and the fine ‘Women’s Studies’ with it’s arch, wry lines about Josef K, Fast Product, Prague and Edinburgh and the surreptitious nod to Johnny Thunders all the way through to the splendid ‘Blood On The Tracks’ Dylan feel of the beautiful and bruised ‘Diminished Ex’ it never failed to disappoint; never faltered in its pursuit of excellence.
Best of all for me was ‘Kids Today’, a cut I found hilarious, touching, and of course filled with innumerable spot on references charting the flow of Yoof Culture all the way from the 1940s through to the present day. It combined wry amusement at the way Teenagers of all eras have been painted in the same hues by the generations grown older and, well, that very sense of ‘teenagers today…’ of a generation itself suddenly finding itself grown older too. Only he managed to capture it less clumsily. Oh, and that closing line about the Vivienne Westwood shirt was just killer.
Delving back through some of Cole’s previous records was an equally enjoyable journey and reveals a veritable glut of delights for me revel in, much of it showing the influence of Americana, though in hindsight that should come as no surprise for if anything The Commotions records displayed a distinct penchant for the culture of the USA too. But if Cole’s work is coloured by American Folk and Country traditions then it does so in much the same vein as Richard Buckner’s (who Cole now reminds me of a great deal and vice versa): with a hugely knowledgable, appreciative nod but with a singular vision for moulding something distinctive and individual from the base materials.
A marvellous (re) discovery.
*I think I have only once knowingly watched ‘Later’, when Denim appeared many, many years ago. I am sure lots of great musical performances have been recorded on the show, but really. Jools Holland….
**’muscular’ is not something I often use as a compliment, and it is certainly not used here in the Sam Fussell manner. No, I mean rather the lean, toasted whippet musculature of the racing cyclist. And no offence Lloyd, but obviously I’m only talking about the sound here...