Rattlesnakes (album)

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Rattlesnakes
Studio album by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions
Released 12 October 1984
Recorded 1984 at The Garden, east London
Genre Indie pop
Length 35:29
Label Polydor (UK & Europe)
Geffen (US & Canada)
Producer Paul Hardiman
Lloyd Cole and the Commotions chronology
Rattlesnakes
(1984)
Easy Pieces
(1985)
Singles from Rattlesnakes
  1. "Perfect Skin"
    Released: 11 May 1984
  2. "Forest Fire"
    Released: 17 August 1984
  3. "Rattlesnakes"
    Released: 2 November 1984

Rattlesnakes is the debut album by British group Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, released on 12 October 1984.[1] The album reached number 13 in the UK Album Charts and included the hit singles "Perfect Skin" (#26 in UK), "Forest Fire" (#41 in UK) and "Rattlesnakes" (#65 in UK, #31 in the Netherlands).

Composition and recording[edit]

"If I hadn't listened to 'Subterranean Homesick Blues' I could never have written 'Perfect Skin'. I was totally drunk on Dylan at the time I wrote that song and all the imagery is deliberately Dylanesque. I thought, 'why not be blatant?' The only difference is, Dylan would have written a song like 'Perfect Skin' in an hour. It took me a week!"

—Lloyd Cole on his debut single, August 1984[2]

The bulk of the album was written by frontman Lloyd Cole, who formed the band while a student at the University of Glasgow. Cole cites Bob Dylan and Booker T. & the MGs as major influences, but also notes the impact of his studies in English and philosophy on both the album's title, a reference to the novel Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion, and its lyrics, which also reference Renata Adler, Simone de Beauvoir and Norman Mailer.[3]

The album's songs written at Glasgow Golf Club, where Cole's father worked as club master and where the family lived.[4] Cole recalled, "'Perfect Skin'" and 'Forest Fire' were written one weekend in the basement, underneath the golf club where we used to live and my parents used to work. We'd got our publishing deal so we bought a Portastudio, a DX7 and a drum machine. I demo-ed both of them that weekend and we had a record deal within a month of that; it was that quick. Every single song on Rattlesnakes was written within a year of the record coming out."[5]

Cole described the songs on Rattlesnakes as "about the things people do when they are in love. People get in all sorts of weird scenarios and I quite like the idea of that. I write about that more than anything. Sometimes it is comic, sometimes tragic, sometimes funny and tragic at the same time. After years of trying to deny it, I'm also starting to realise that I basically write about myself."[6] He later reflected, "It's like most of [the characters in the songs] live in that same basement flat. It's very romanticised."[7] After the Commotions broke up, he would later admit to being embarrassed by some of his lyrics on Rattlesnakes: "'She looks like Eve Marie Saint/In On the Waterfront'. Yes, some of the earlier lyrics were very naive. But I was a young man! I really was. You can just imagine me trying to wear a French trenchcoat at the time, thinking I looked very cool when, in fact, I looked really stupid. But maybe that's why people liked it."[8]

The track "Speedboat" takes its name from a book by Renata Adler. In the book the narrator is startled when a rat runs across the table in the restaurant wher she and her partner are dining and her partner says, 'You were all right there until you lost your cool": Cole admitted that he stole the line and included it in the song because he loved the phrase.[9] Cole stated that "Down on Mission Street" is "about a character who says he'll never look back and will step all over other people".[10] The character in "Charlotte Street" is "based very closely on me. My idea of romance obviously is meeting a wonderful, beautiful girl in the library. I wrote that song and it took me a year to realise that I hadn't actually mentioned that it was set in a library. I forgot to put that in, which is a bit stupid really."[11] Of the album's closing track "Are You Ready to be Heartbroken?", he said, "It's about being so in love there's only one way to go – if you get so happy then you're ready to be heartbroken".[12]

The album was recorded during the British summer of 1984 in The Garden studio in Shoreditch in east London (built and owned by former Ultravox frontman John Foxx), with Paul Hardiman producing. All the band members remembered the recording of Rattlesnakes as a very easy and relaxed process: bass player Lawrence Donegan later said, "Every day we'd arrive at the studio, lay down a few backing tracks, nip along to Brick Lane for a curry and some pints, then head back and record some more. The album was finished in a month. Happy days indeed."[13] Guitarist Neil Clark added, "It was great... Paul Hardiman was great to work with and the weather was great. We just went in and did our stuff. It was like the best job ever at the time. We'd start at 10am and finish at 6pm, though I did the 'Forest Fire' solo late one night but that was an exception. We were well organized and we'd played the songs in."[14]

The album cover is a picture by renowned photographer Robert Farber which was chosen by design company Da Gama from a selection of stock photographs.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[15]
Melody Maker favourable[16]
Mojo 4/5 stars (2004 reissue)[17]
NME very favourable[18]
Q 3/5 stars (2004 reissue)[19]
Record Mirror 4.5/5 stars[20]
Robert Christgau B+[21]
Rolling Stone 3/5 stars[22]
Sounds 4.5/5 stars[23]
Spin very favourable[24]

The reception for the UK music magazines at the time of the album's release was generally very positive. Sounds stated, "Rattlesnakes is a wonderful LP, the most refreshing, uncontrived gorgeous lump of gold to be mined from Scotland in ages, pursuing the alternately vibrant and tender pop courses discovered by 'Perfect Skin' and the classic 'Forest Fire'. And it still finds time for excursions into Dylanesque string-embellished balladry, age-old blues licks or eloquent country melody, all led on by the infinitely capable guitar of Neil Clarke (sic)."[23] Record Mirror felt that they could "forgive Lloyd Cole his pretentions towards poetry; his band and he have made one of the best debut albums for a long time".[20] NME said, "Is there anyone who doesn't like Cole and his cronies, who have made the Velvets do a part C&W album and part deep-south blues-funk – gentle, self-mocking, inoffensive and superbly balanced. Every song is instantly memorable."[18] Melody Maker was somewhat more critical, believing that "like Orange Juice's Texas Fever and ABC's The Lexicon of Love, Rattlesnakes is an album of cynicism masquerading as romance. It's about past pop's legacy to the present, rather than love or hate or any of the emotions it feigns. It's about how modes of expression haven't moved on one iota from early Bob Dylan, how a generation bereft of its own voice fallsback on playing with the language of its peers." However, the review went on to state that the album had much to commend it and admitted that it "had been too hard here on purpose because this record's good enough to stand it. Compared to most else around, it's a gem but Rattlesnakes cried out to shed some of that perfect skin. Then, maybe, we'd believe as well as admire."[16]

In the US the reviews were also favourable. Spin claimed that "Lloyd Cole and the Commotions are the most interesting new band since Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers, and Rattlesnakes is a brilliant first album... This is the first album I've heard of late that rejects the techno-pop banality we've been drowning in without being overly self-conscious in its minimalism or wearing a chip on its shoulder."[24] Rolling Stone felt "too much of Rattlesnakes [...] sounds like Lou Reed, Tom Verlaine and Bob Dylan doing the best of Lloyd Cole... But if Rattlesnakes arrives critically short of the greatness claimed for it in the British rock press, its promise is not so easily dismissed... A few more songs like ["Perfect Skin"] and the man really could start a commotion."[22]

Reviewing the 2004 reissue, Mojo hailed Rattlesnakes as "a timeless pop album".[17] Q was less enthusiastic, observing that "the results were, and remain, equal parts irritating and beguiling".[19] Calling the record "one of the finest debuts of the '80s", Allmusic stated that "Rattlesnakes is a college rock masterpiece of smart, ironic lyrics and sympathetic folk-rock-based melodies".[15]

Track listing[edit]

All lyrics by Lloyd Cole, all music composed by Cole except where noted.

Side one[edit]

  1. "Perfect Skin" – 3:13
  2. "Speedboat" – 4:37
  3. "Rattlesnakes" (Cole, Neil Clark) – 3:28
  4. "Down on Mission Street" – 3:49
  5. "Forest Fire" – 4:34

Side two[edit]

  1. "Charlotte Street" – 3:55
  2. "2cv" – 2:52
  3. "Four Flights Up" (Cole, Lawrence Donegan) – 2:37
  4. "Patience" (Cole, Blair Cowan) – 3:40
  5. "Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?" (Cole, Clark) – 3:06

On the North American version of the album, released on Geffen Records, the tracks "Perfect Skin", "Four Flights Up" and "Patience" were remixed by Ric Ocasek.

1985 CD bonus tracks[edit]

The album was first released on CD in April 1985, six months after the LP/cassette. The CD included four additional songs, all of which had been B-sides to the singles.

  1. "Sweetness" (B-side of "Rattlesnakes") – 2:48
  2. "Andy's Babies" (Cole, Donegan) (B-side of "Forest Fire") – 2:50
  3. "The Sea and the Sand" (B-side of "Perfect Skin" 7" and 12") – 3:02
  4. "You Will Never Be No Good" (Cole, Cowan) (B-side of "Perfect Skin" 12") – 2:41

The CD also included the extended version of "Forest Fire" which had appeared on the 12" version of the single, which at 5:11 is almost 40 seconds longer than the version on the 7" single and on the original album release. The Deluxe Edition released in 2004 reverted to the shorter version.

2004 Deluxe Edition[edit]

In 2004 the band reformed for a brief reunion tour of the UK and Ireland to commemorate the album's 20th anniversary.[3] At the same time a 2-CD Deluxe Edition of the album was released on Universal International and Capitol Records in North America. The Deluxe Edition comprised the ten original album tracks on the first disc, and the four tracks from the CD version and 14 additional tracks, including demos, concert and radio performances, on the second disc.

Curiously, the extended version of "Forest Fire" was not included as a bonus track on this edition.The album was remastered by Gary Moore from the original master tapes where possible. The CD booklet included comments from Cole and the rest of the band on the various tracks. The BBC tracks were included on the album Live at the BBC Volume 1 released in 2007.

Disc one: As original LP/cassette version of album.

Disc two:

Demos

  1. "Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?" Demo (Cole, Clark) – 2:08
  2. "Perfect Skin" Demo – 3:09

Live

  1. "Glory" Live at Nightmoves (15/06/84) (Tom Verlaine) – 2:29
  2. "Beautiful City" Live at The Marquee (05/11/84) – 3:43
  3. "Charlotte Street" Live at The Marquee (05/11/84) – 3:40
  4. "Sweetness" Live at The Barrowlands (09/09/85) – 2:42
  5. "2cv" Live at The Barrowlands (09/09/85) – 2:50

Radio Sessions

  1. "Patience" Saturday Live – BBC Radio 1 Session (26/05/84) (Cole, Cowan) – 3:21
  2. "Forest Fire" Richard Skinner Session – BBC Radio 1 (05/07/84) – 4:13
  3. "Speedboat" Richard Skinner Session – BBC Radio 1 (05/07/84) – 3:59
  4. "Rattlesnakes" Richard Skinner Session – BBC Radio 1 (05/07/84) (Cole, Clark) – 3:29

B-sides/Out Takes

  1. "The Sea And The Sand" – 3:03
  2. "You Will Never Be No Good" (Cole, Cowan) – 2:39
  3. "Andy's Babies" (Cole, Donegan) – 2:52
  4. "Glory" (Tom Verlaine) (B-side of 12" of "Forest Fire") – 2:39
  5. "Sweetness" – 2:51
  6. "Beautiful City" (Rattlesnakes recording) – 3:37
  7. "Jesus Said" (Cole, Clark) (B-side of "My Bag") – 3:13[25]

Personnel[edit]

Lloyd Cole and the Commotions:

Production:

  • Paul Hardiman – producer
  • Ric Ocasek – remix on "Perfect Skin", "Four Flights Up" and "Patience"
  • Anne Dudley and the Commotions – string arrangements
  • Derek MacKillop - management

Cover:

  • Robert Farber – cover photo
  • Da Gama – cover design

Charts[edit]

Charts (1984) Peak
position
UK Albums (OCC)[26] 13
Charts (1985) Peak
position
Dutch Albums (MegaCharts)[27] 17
New Zealand Albums (Recorded Music NZ)[28] 13
Swedish Albums (Sverigetopplistan)[29] 25

Release history[edit]

Region Date Label Format Catalog
United Kingdom 12 October 1984 Polydor LP LCLP 1
cassette LCMC 1
Europe LP 823 683-1
cassette 823 683-4
United States 1984 Geffen LP GHS 24064
Canada XGHS 24064
Europe April 1985 Polydor CD 823 683-2
United States 25 October 1990 Capitol CDP 7 91182 2
United Kingdom & Europe 4 October 2004 Polydor 2-CD Deluxe Edition 9821820

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Record News". NME (London, England: IPC Media): 45. 6 October 1984. 
  2. ^ Black, Bill (18 August 1984). "Cole Face". Sounds (London, England: Spotlight Publications): 28. 
  3. ^ a b Shanahan, Mark. November 1, 2006. Cole spell. Boston Globe. Accessed August 24, 2007.
  4. ^ Cassidy, Jane (6 June 2004). "Lloyd kicks up a new commotion". Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland: Trinity Mirror). 
  5. ^ "Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – The 'Rattlesnakes' Pack". Music Week (London, England: Spotlight Publications). 18 September 2004. 
  6. ^ Thrills, Adrian (6 October 1984). "Even Serpents Shine". NME (London, England: IPC Media): 32–32 & 53. 
  7. ^ Solanas, Jane (26 September 1987). "Cole Industry". NME (London, England: IPC Media): 16–17. 
  8. ^ Deevoy, Adrian (March 1990). "Parlez-vous existentialism?". Q (London, England: EMAP) (42): 26–28. 
  9. ^ FitzGerald, Helen (3 November 1984). "Snake Eyes". Melody Maker (London, England: IPC Media): 12–13. 
  10. ^ Linfield, Carole (7 September 1985). "Lloyd Cole: Do the lo-commotion". Sounds (London, England: Spotlight Publications): 26–27. 
  11. ^ Wilkinson, Roy (21 November 1987). "Pretentious, Moi?". Sounds (London, England: Spotlight Publications): 24–25. 
  12. ^ Miller, Andrew (4 February 1984). "What's All the Commotion About?". NME (London, England: IPC Media): 8. 
  13. ^ Donegan, Lawrence (15 February 2004). "It was 20 years ago today...". The Observer (London, England: Guardian Media Group). 
  14. ^ "Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – The 'Rattlesnakes' Pack". Music Week (London, England: Spotlight Publications). 18 September 2004. 
  15. ^ a b Mason, Stewart. Lloyd Cole and the Commotions – Rattlesnakes > Review at AllMusic
  16. ^ a b Sutherland, Steve (6 October 1984). "Review: Lloyd Cole and the Commotions – Rattlesnakes". Melody Maker (London, England: IPC Media): 37. 
  17. ^ a b Paphides, Peter (November 2004). "Review: Lloyd Cole and the Commotions – Rattlesnakes". Mojo (London, England: EMAP) (132): 126. 
  18. ^ a b Carroll, Cath (6 October 1984). "Review: Lloyd Cole and the Commotions – Rattlesnakes". NME (London, England: IPC Media): 37. 
  19. ^ a b Duerden, Nick (November 2004). "Review: Lloyd Cole and the Commotions – Rattlesnakes". Q (London, England: EMAP) (220): 138. 
  20. ^ a b Strike, Andy (6 October 1984). "Review: Lloyd Cole and the Commotions – Rattlesnakes". Record Mirror (London, England: Spotlight Publications): 21. 
  21. ^ Robert Christgau review
  22. ^ a b Fricke, David (28 February 1985). "Review: Lloyd Cole and the Commotions – Rattlesnakes". Rolling Stone (New York City, USA: Wenner Media LLC) (442). Archived from the original on 11 December 2008. 
  23. ^ a b Gibson, Robin (6 October 1984). "Review: Lloyd Cole and the Commotions – Rattlesnakes". Sounds (London, England: Spotlight Publications): 36. 
  24. ^ a b Murphy, Elliott (May 1985). "Review: Lloyd Cole and the Commotions – Rattlesnakes". Spin (New York City, USA: Spin Media LLC) 1 (1): 30. 
  25. ^ CD Booklet, "Rattlesnakes" deluxe edition, 2004
  26. ^ "Lloyd Cole & the Commotions | Artist | Official Charts". UK Albums Chart. The Official Charts Company.
  27. ^ "Lloyd Cole & the Commotions – Rattlesnakes" (in Dutch). Dutchcharts.nl. Hung Medien.
  28. ^ "Lloyd Cole & the Commotions – Rattlesnakes". Charts.org.nz. Hung Medien.
  29. ^ "Lloyd Cole & the Commotions – Rattlesnakes". Swedishcharts.com. Hung Medien.