By Arne Sjostedt
The lonely struggle of a suffering artist. It’s about as much of a well-worn cliché as you’ll find, but as just about anyone who tries to create for a living will tell you, this cliché is something they have learned to accept.
Bringing his From Rattlesnakes to Guesswork tour to Canberra, Lloyd Cole’s ‘Guesswork’ was an album that did not come easily. Recorded mostly in his Massachusetts attic, Cole says that he worked by himself for much of the process.
“Self-doubt is part of being an artist,” says the Buxton born man who made his name fronting genre defying 80’s band Lloyd Cole and the Commotions. “Being on your own for such a long time and being in charge of almost everything, it’s a lot to deal with.”
Putting off starting the work for as long as he could stomach, organically discovering the picture as he was going along, Cole credits his Commotions band mates and collaborators Neil Clarke and Blair Cowan as important to helping the album take shape. With long-time friend Chris Hughes (who co-wrote Tears for Fears’ Everybody Wants to Rule the World) coming in as executive producer, “It was extremely daunting,” Cole says of the process, where skype and phone meetings were his only touch point with other creatives.
The resultant album is uncharted territory.
Bringing Clarke on the road with him for this tour, Cole says From Rattlesnakes to Guesswork will not have much to do with this latest release.
Instead, fans can expect a journey through his back catalogue.
“It’s an extension of the last tour that I did, which didn’t come to Canberra,” he says. A retrospective, the tour was initially Cole and his son William, where Cole played the first set solo, then was joined by William for the second.
He plans to follow this same format this time around.
Reinventing and rearranging songs for two guitars, Cole discovered his songs could survive without large scale backing when a fired-up audience at a Dundee club wouldn’t let him off the stage until he played classic Rattlesnakes track, ‘Forest Fire’.
“They literally wouldn’t let me off the stage. I just got up there and played it and I realised that if the song is strong enough then you can make it work on a kazoo.”
This spirit of exploration also made it into his recording process for ‘Guesswork’.
“I haven’t made a record that sounds like this before,” Cole says. “Using a hand held microphone, the vocal takes that landed on the record are the result of a deliberate decision to sing with more conviction.”
This approach, which he likened to singing for Broadway, is something Cole concentrated hard to deliver. Branching out from his comfort zone and pushing himself, he says the process was both exhausting and exhilarating.
And from most reports, the effort paid off. Reviews for ‘Guesswork’ have been almost one hundred percent positive, even if the newspaper Cole reads did not share the same enthusiasm.
“Everybody else seems to think it’s fantastic,” he says, explaining that many places that had cooled down on him in the past were starting to come back. The record even landed at number two in France.
“They pre-sell the album for two months before the release date,” says Cole, downplaying what is still a significant achievement for any artist. “And all those sales on the first day meant that it made number two in France for one day.”
Lloyd Cole plays The Playhouse 9 December 2019. More information at canberratheatrecentre.com.au