Mainstream (Lloyd Cole and the Commotions album)

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Studio album by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions
Released 26 October 1987
Length 40:02
Label Capitol
Producer Ian Stanley
Lloyd Cole and the Commotions chronology
Easy Pieces

Mainstream is the third and final studio album released by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions. It was produced by Ian Stanley and released in 1987 by Capitol Records in the US and Polydor in the UK. It contained the hits "From the Hip", "My Bag", and "Jennifer She Said". Although the album reached number nine in the UK, it failed to chart in America and was not embraced by all critics.


The album took two years to make as finding a producer proved difficult. The band first went with Chris Thomas, when that did not work out they brought in Stewart Copeland. With Copeland they only recorded one track, "Hey Rusty", then finally found Ian Stanley.[1] Mainstream is the only Lloyd Cole and the Commotions release not to sell at least 100,000 copies in the US[2] and ended up being the band's last full length offering of new material. Following the album's release the band produced a few singles and a compilation album, 1984-1989, before breaking up. After the split, band leader Lloyd Cole and keyboardist Blair Cowan moved to New York and joined up with Fred Maher and Robert Quine, both formerly with Lou Reed, to work on a Cole solo album.[3]

Selected tracks[edit]

Mainstream begins with "My Bag", a song about cocaine.[4] On the track "From the Hip", which charted in the UK,[5] Cole laments over his helplessness in combating violence and abuse.[6] "Jennifer She Said" has a Mark Knopfler-like guitar break[6] and is about a newlywed who has lost interest[7] and "last forever love that leads to a tattoo".[6]

"Mr. Malcontent" is based on the character played by Daniel Day-Lewis in My Beautiful Laundrette[8] and is about someone who would rather waste time than face the world.[6] "Sean Penn Blues" is a "cheeky [and] upbeat" tune[9] and "recover[s] the sly wit" of the band's earlier material.[10] Cole was quoted as saying that the tune was inspired by an incident in which Sean Penn was set up and openly laughed at during a poetry reading.[11]

"Hey Rusty", the one track produced by Stewart Copeland of The Police,[1] has a "Springsteen-like theme and a U2-like musical track".[7] "These Days" has a bassline copied from a track on Mister Heartbreak by Laurie Anderson[12] and has been called "gorgeous [and] melancholic".[9]


Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 2/5 stars[7]
The Great Rock Discography 5/10 stars[10]
The New Rolling Stone Album Guide 4/5 stars[9]
New Straits Times 3/5 stars[12]
Record-Journal B[6]

Although Mainstream was not universally embraced by the press it was favored by some critics. John Williamson of the Evening Times called Mainstream "the band's most accomplished work to-date" and "a major development for the band".[1] In The New Rolling Stone Album Guide the album is called Cole's "most well-rounded" and "cleanly produced".[9] Jim Zebora of the Record-Journal gave the album a B and said it "hit with a lot of artistry" but admits Cole's "potential hasn't been reached".[6] RS Murthi of New Straits Times writes that Cole's "rough-hewn vocals...provide a fine contrast to the smooth and buoyant music" and it "bristles with chiming guitars and dulcet synthesizer textures".[12]

On the other hand, Richard Luck of The Rough Guide to Rock writes that Mainstream "was by and large a disappointing affair".[3] William Ruhlmann, in Allmusic, laments that there is "little to alleviate the vitriol in the music". He did favor the track "Hey Rusty" but other than that he believes the songs are not "coherent, specific, [or] moving"[7] Lastly, the album is described in The Great Rock Discography as "sound[ing] lacklustre in comparison" to their earlier work.[10]

Track listing[edit]

All compositions by Lloyd Cole except if noted

  1. "My Bag" – 3:56
  2. "From the Hip" (Neil Clark, Cole, Blair Cowan, Lawrence Donegan, Stephen Irvine, McKillop) – 3:57
  3. "29" – 5:28
  4. "Mainstream" – 3:14
  5. "Jennifer She Said" – 3:02
  6. "Mr. Malcontent" – 4:49
  7. "Sean Penn Blues" – 3:28
  8. "Big Snake" (Cole, Ian Stanley) – 5:16
  9. "Hey Rusty" – 4:30
  10. "These Days" – 2:27





  1. ^ a b c Williamson, John (30 October 1987). "It's the limit". Evening Times. p. 18. Retrieved 5 February 2011. 
  2. ^ Mirkin, Steven (12 August 1995). "Lloyd Cole's Ryko 'debut' aimed at triple-A demo". Billboard: pp. 10, 16. Retrieved 5 February 2011. 
  3. ^ a b Luck, Richard (2003). Buckley, Peter, ed. The Rough Guide to Rock. Rough Guides. pp. 217–218. ISBN 978-1-84353-105-0. Retrieved 5 February 2011. 
  4. ^ Sack, Adriano; Niermann, Ingo (2008). "Cocaine Songs". The Curious World of Drugs and Their Friends: A Very Trippy Miscellany. Penguin Group. p. 118. ISBN 0-452-28991-2. Retrieved 5 February 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Warwick, Neil; Kutner, Jon; Brown, Tony (2004). The Complete Book of the British Charts: Singles & Albums. Omnibus Press. p. 250. ISBN 978-1-84449-058-5. Retrieved 5 February 2011. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f Zebora, Jim (6 November 1988). "Scotsman sings of 'wasted space and alcohol'". Record-Journal. p. E2. Retrieved 5 February 2011. 
  7. ^ a b c d Ruhlmann, William. "Review: Mainstream". Allmusic. Retrieved 5 February 2011. 
  8. ^ Blashill, Pat (February 1989). "Lloyd'd work holiday". Spin: 18. Retrieved 5 February 2011. 
  9. ^ a b c d Brackett, Nathan; Hoard, Christian David (2004). The New Rolling Stone Album Guide. Simon & Schuster. pp. 177–178. ISBN 978-0-7432-0169-8. Retrieved 5 February 2011. 
  10. ^ a b c Strong, Martin Charles; Peel, John (2004). The Great Rock Discography. Canongate U.S. pp. 316–317. ISBN 978-1-84195-615-2. Retrieved 5 February 2011. 
  11. ^ Goldstein, Patrick (August 28, 1988). "Song Title of the Week". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles). p. 76. Retrieved 5 February 2011. 
  12. ^ a b c Murthi, RS (14 April 1988). "Rediscovering songs of the 60s". New Straits Times. p. 10. Retrieved 5 February 2011. 
  13. ^ a b "Charts: Mainstream". Allmusic. Retrieved 5 February 2011.