Lloyd Cole declares himself a 1980’s pop star although his music has never run-of-the-mill eighties pop.
His lyrics are infused with an eclectic mix of literature and cultural references stretching back through the twentieth century. His phrasing is not pop-like, but poetic with quirky inflections.
But Cole is not an enigma, and if you look at his career post-Commotions, it seems he has carved out a good life both personally and professionally.
Now based in the US with his American wife and two children, Lloyd Cole continued to record albums frequently as solo endeavours but also with musician friends including Jill Sobule and Joan Wasser. He also loves to hit the road, playing solo tours without support acts. It’s been said that he often constructs his tour schedules to align with famous golf courses.
As a solo performer, Cole delivers his songs in folksinger fashion, weaving in anecdotes told with a wry humour, all the while underplaying his pop star history. Refreshingly, this man is one who feels no need to puff his ego to put on a great show.
When he played in Lismore in June, the house, though half-full on a freezing night, was warm and in Cole’s thrall, throwing out gentle harmonies during choruses of Commotions-era hits including Perfect Skin, Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?, Jennifer She Said and Forest Fire.
Here is Cole performing with a band on the Later Live with Jools Holland show in October, 2013.
Cole’s voice is still in top shape. His guitar playing is clean, dynamic and nuanced, and shows his affinity with colour chords and inversions, which again makes his music a beast more sophisticated than simple pop. The performance was pure with no flourish, no fuss; he just connected to the audience, and played his clever songs.
Lloyd Cole certainly understands that sticking to the essentials is what matters: Do what you are good at, and he does.
Jeanti St Clair is an associate lecturer at Southern Cross University, and the arts critic for ABC North Coast where a longer version of this review was first published.