'Rattlesnakes' is the kind of album which can restore one's faith in the potential of pop music generally, especially when considering the musical climate at the time of the album's release in 1984. It was refreshing to actually hear songs that were not bombarded with overproduction where they could breathe allowing their true potential to shine through. With 'Rattlesnakes' Lloyd Cole and his Commotions actually managed to record an album that's almost as perfect as they're ever likely to come. There's a wealth of influences to be found within these songs, namely Lou Reed, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen and a sixties styled jangly guitar sound which isn't too far removed from the Commotions contempories The Smiths at times. Lloyd never tried to come across as attempting to make a profound statement, as many of his influences tend to do - he preferred a much lighter touch - a hint of pop mixed with a little folk alongside his literary style of writing. This made for a most agreeable sound. 'Perfect Skin' is perhaps the best known song as it was a successful single yet for me if one song does shine just that little bit brighter it's 'Forest Fire'.
'Rattlesnakes' is a remarkably poised and focused piece of work which is incredibly consistent from start to finish without any obvious weak moments.
Lloyd and his Commotions would find it incredibly hard to release an album ever to match these set of songs.
'Rattlesnakes' is well worth purchasing.
It is hard to believe that the original album was originally released over 20 years ago in 1984. Originally labeled part of the so called `college rock' scene (and later cruelly labeled as glum rock) this album goes way beyond being included in any such `movement' and stands high as one the finest albums of the 80's by any artist and one of my favourite all time albums. The production has not dated, probably as a result of the combination of a clean sound and the intelligently composed songs laced with smart, ironic lyrics, formed around folk-rock-melody patterns, a style which remains eternally popular. This classic album kicks off with the impossibly wordy track `perfect skin' (a trick repeated on a later commotions album `mainstream' and the opening track `my bag') which really sets the tone for the whole album with Intelligent lyrics, quality musicianship and painted pictures full of observations of young university life and loves, and conflicting social circumstances that occur among the overeducated and underemployed.
Cole's key skill, which he also carries over with varying success into his solo career, is to be smart and accurate with observation and commentary, but also retain a certain degree of self mocking wit and humour about proceedings, which prevents Lloyd Cole coming across as self indulgent or pretentious. This album and its songs are literally littered with statements, questions and self answered queries, many of which have more than one angle to approach them from, for example how many songwriters dare to pair up the words sin and cosmopolitan in a verse?
Very rarely, there isn't really a weak track on the original album, but highlights for me are: Perfect Skin, Rattlesnakes, Forest Fire, 2CV, Patience and a real gem hidden at the back are you ready to heartbroken?
The bonus CD is must for the fan containing a worthwhile mix of demos and rarities that are not available elsewhere, but the part i really enjoyed was the detailed bonus sleeve notes where they describe the process, thoughts and ideas behind the songs and how their musician skills evolved during the recording of the album. Being a musician myself i loved the bit where they described how they created the guitar solo in forest fire by marking the floor in front of the amp with tape and hand written notes to acheive the different notes during the solo through feedback.
Like many of my favourite albums of all time (and the original release being one of them) it is the subtlety that appeals here with the outstanding lyrical content and musicianship that does the talking. Along with `Mainstream' and Lloyd Cole solo album `Lovestory, Rattlesnakes represents Lloyd Cole at his very best. If you enjoy artists such as Prefab sprout, Aztec Camera or The Bible you will enjoy this. This album is full of lyrical and musical interplay that more recent bands or artists such as Coldplay or KT Tunstall can only dream of.
on 4 January 2004
It's good to see that the other reviews give this album 5 stars. If you know this album and you can appreciate talent then you will know that anything less would be absurd. Some of the comments of the other reviews worry me a little though. For example, comments such as "This is an album that probably is Lloyd's definitive piece" and "Certainly ranks...alongside Cole's first solo album..." Surprised to say the least. I like Lloyd Cole's work and I wouldn't want to hurt his feelings but without doubt this was his definitive moment. THIS IS IT. As happens when we fall in love with an album by an artist we always hope for more. So we buy the next release the day it comes out. We get it home, put it on and despite temporarily denying it to ourselves we soon realise that it's not quite what we had hoped for. But no matter, maybe the next one. So we buy that one, and the next and so on until we can finally admit to ourselves that 'Revolver' isn't coming. Apart from the odd miracle workers who follow an upward path (Beatles, Radiohead, others) we never quite get what we're looking for. And that's how the artist must feel too. Because they all realise how transient artistic genius is. It's all to do with space and time and your place in it. And true works of art come from the mix like Frankenteins, uncontrolled and daunting. That's why so many bands who hit the heights at the first attempt get stifled by their own creation and fade with the genius in them (take the Roses, Embrace, Suede, etc). You may argue that other bands work up to their best. I would say there is still only one peak in every mountain range.
So back to Rattlesnakes. The record on which Lloyd Cole's genius shone brightest. I can't express how much I like this album lyrically. All I can say is the the songs make you say "I wish I could write like that" in the same way that Dylan does. The subject matter is mostly from the viewpoint of someone innocent and trying to deal with all of the stuff you're not prepared for when you first leave home. For example, the opening lines to the album "I choose my friends only far too well/I'm up on the pavement and they're all down in the sell with they're govenment grants/And my IQ they brought me down to size...Academical blues" tell of someone having difficulty with the fact he's not the only bright kid in town. There's some irony in that notion becuase listening to this album can often make you feel the same way. Many other lines like "Oh must you tell me all your secrets when it's hard enough to love you knowing nothing" capture the essence of feelings that we mortals struggle to express but are sure to have been shared by most reading this. And Cole still finds room for plenty of cynicism too in lines such as "I belive in love/I'll belive in anything/If it's gonna get me what I want" if that's what you like.
Musically, this album is beautifully arranged and has a low-key production that gives a slight 60s hint and a lot of honesty. The melodies are fantastic and have excelled in that illusive trick of augmenting the emotions of the lyrics. When lyrics and melody combine like this you get 'Blood on the Tracks'.
I highly recommend, in fact I emplore you to buy this album if you don't already own it. It's stood the test of time with me (16 yrs). Some of my other favourite albums are Abbey Road (Beatles), What's Going On (Marvin Gaye), The Stone Roses (The Stone Roses), The Good Will Out (Embrace), OX4 The best of... (Ride) to give you an indication of my tastes in case that gives you more of an idea on whether or not to take my advice.
I hope I haven't offended anyone with my original observations. I understand that everyone's perspective is different. Lastly, I would like to say well done to Lloyd Cole and his Commotions for giving us this masterpiece.
Lloyd Cole - a true genius hit the pinnacle of his career in the mid 1980s with this masterpiece of modern music. I cannot find a fault with this album, each song beautifully written and performed, the lyrics brimming with intellectualisms you will rarely find, and the whole package still shining all these years later. I don't want to say anything bad about this album and to be honest I don't think you will either. From the opening track through to the end this is simply awesome. My favourite track has to be Forest Fire - the guitar solo still makes the hairs on my neck stand out 20 odd yeras after first hearing it. If you have never listened to Lloyd Cole then buy this album - I promise you will not be disappointed Buy It!
on 7 February 2015
It may little interest you, I don't know, looking here as you are for an album from the dim dark past, the swollen eighties, as I have oft been heard referring to them, the best decade EVER, and this a pretty good representation thereof if I do so say myself, but I was actually born in the physical form of a horse. Only thanks to that bloke who was responsible for the first test tube babies on the first day of the football season when Swansea, Crystal Palace and possibly Stoke got promoted to the old First Division and I was in Blackpool on hodilay do I stand here before you, if virtually, a human man! I mean, I just always felt like I weren't meant to be a horse, even as a little foal. It just never did feel right. Then I heard Lloyd and the boys on the radio what the stable hands used to listen to when they was mucking us out and all that, you know, on say Gary Davies, Simon Bates or the late Mike Smith (RIP), and I knowed, I knowed I weren't never meant to be no pony! Gott in himmel but I'm so grateful to Mr Cole and the like what you might call philosophical whatsit he got thru to me.
'I might come to a conclusion other than that which is absolutely necessary...'
It is hard to believe that this classic debut album was originally released over 20 years ago in 1984. At that time Lloyd Cole was labeled part of the so called 'college rock' scene (and later cruelly labeled as glum rock) this album in retrospect goes way beyond being included in any such 'movement' and stands high as one the finest albums of the 80's, by any artist. The production has not dated, probably as a result of the combination of a clean sound and the classic intelligently composed songs laced with smart, ironic lyrics formed around folk-rock-melody patterns, a style which remains eternally popular. This classic album kicks off (after an odd 2 second delay on the CD - half expected to hear some crackles) with the impossibly wordy track 'perfect skin' (a trick repeated on a later commotions album 'mainstream' and the opening track 'my bag') which really sets the tone for the whole album with Intelligent lyrics and quality musicianship painting pictures and images, full of observations and commentary of young university life and the confusion, loves and conflicting social circumstances that occur among the overeducated and underemployed.
Lloyd Cole's key skill (which he also carries over with varying success into his solo career) is to be smart and accurate with observation and commentary, but also retain a certain degree of self mocking wit and humour about proceedings, which prevents Lloyd Cole coming across as self indulgent or pretentious. This album and its songs are literally littered with statements, questions and self answered queries, many of which have more than one angle to approach them from, for example how many songwriters dare to pair up the words sin and cosmopolitan in a verse? Or end a song stating that there isn't a moral to what you have just been listening to?
Very rarely, there isn't really a weak track on the album, but highlights for me are: Perfect Skin, Rattlesnakes, Forest Fire, 2CV, Patience and a real gem hidden at the back of the CD Are you ready to heartbroken?
Like many of my favourite albums of all time (and this being one of them) it is the subtlety that appeals here with the outstanding lyrical content and musicianship that does the talking. Along with 'Mainstream' and Lloyd Cole solo album 'Lovestory', Rattlesnakes represents Lloyd Cole at his very best. If you enjoy artists such as Prefab sprout, Aztec camera or The Bible you will also enjoy this. This album is full of lyrical and musical interplay that more recent bands or artists such as Coldplay or KT Tunstall can only dream of.
on 10 April 2001
This is one of the classic albums of the last 30 years and is certainly an 80s classic, all the more so because it is 'against type' and does not reflect the awful 80s. Instead it is much more typical of early 60s short pop pieces or 90s pop/rock with each song pure pop poetry from the delicious 'Perfect Skin' to the wonderfully spine tingling 'Are you ready to be Heartbroken'. Certainly ranks above the Commotions' 'Easy Pieces' and alongside Cole's first solo album 'Lloyd Cole'. It's one of the few albums that I've just continued to come back to and play again and again since its 80s release. The question remains: why is this artist so underrated? Probably because he was ahead of his time.
on 15 March 2001
This is an album that probably is Lloyd's definitive piece. The Commotions were one of the best bands of the eighties - and that does not date them in any sense whatsoever, since musically and lyrically, the whole record transcends that awful, limiting notion of datedness. It sounds as fresh and as poignant today as it did then; because what we are talking about is artfully styled songs that chart the intensisty of ordinary human relationships all of which is conveyed through intelligent and at times witty lyrical conceits: "Lean over on the bookcase/If you really want to get straight/Read Norman Mailer/Or get a new tailor." This stands time pretty well okay, and in terms of his recent work I'd advocate investing in 1996's Love Story as Rattlesnakes' true descendant. Both are bathed in the sublime guitarry bits of Neil Clark - a most underrated talent.
on 10 October 2004
What is about using the name Julie in songs? Is it a lyric writer's trick to conjure up images of iconic blondes a la Julie Christie? Cole uses it in two of the first four songs here - 'Speedboat' and 'Down On Mission Street' .Of course as everybody whose followed Cole's career knows, he has a thing about names beginning with J (Jennifer, Jim, Jane, Jodie, Jesus and possibly others also feature in his songs). Anyway, Julies everywhere should be pleased to be namechecked in such a classic album. There really isn't a bad track on the original album. From the jangly masterpiece that is 'perfect skin' (Louise) to, arguably the best song, 'Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken, this is supreme music. There is a definite debt to Tom Verlaine/Patty Smith in Cole's vocals (which is even more apparent on the extra disc which includes a version of Television's 'Glory)) and he, like any other right thinking person, has obviously listened to sixties greats such as the Byrds, Dylan and the Velvet Underground. However, although these influences inform the songs Cole's material stands up in its own right. Strangely, the Commotions were less celebrated than Glasgow contemporaries Orange Juice but while 'You Can't Hide Your Love Forever' is also a very good album, over their short life the Commotions were much more consistent. In fact, I personally think the other two Commotions albums(''Easy Pieces', 'Mainstream') are also brilliant and worth 5 stars. Bizarrely, for some reason, those albums seemed to become unfashionable very quickly but that's the trendies' loss. So the original album was, undisputedly, a masterpiece but how much extra value has been added here? Well, a few of the tracks on the second disc were present on the last CD version. The rest is an assortment of demos, BBC sessions and live recordings. As you might imagine it's hardly essential but as an occasional diversion it's fine.
Lloyd Cole and the Commotions were formed in Glasgow in 1982 and released "Rattlesnakes", their debut album, two years later. Despite being praised wildly by the UK's 'indie' music press from the outset, it also proved to be an excellent album. Cleverly written, "Rattlesnakes" also features more catchy tunes than a debut album is generally entitled to.
For this 20th Anniversary release, the "main" album has been remastered - though the track listing remains the same. It opens with "Perfect Skin", one of the band's best known and most fondly remembered songs. (It even merits a mention in "The Crow Road", by Ian Banks). It's followed directly by the album's title track - a lively number that namechecks Eve Marie Saint and Simone de Beauvoir. It's also one of the songs that benefits hugely from Anne Dudley's superb string arrangements. "Mission Street" and "2cv" are a little more introspective, while "Forest Fire" (I'm reliably informed) features a Bo Diddly drumbeat. "Four Flights Up" just about makes it as my favorite song on the album - another lively track, the lyrics always make me smile. ("Must you tell me all your secrets when it's hard enough to love you knowing nothing ?").
The bonus disc contains 18 tracks, is nearly an hour long and is made up of demos, live tracks, radio sessions, b-sides and an out-take. Only three tracks from the 'main' CD ("Down on Mission Street", "Charlotte Street" and "Forest Fire") don't make a second appearance here. However, the out-take is a track called "Beautiful City" which was recorded for the original album but dropped. To make up for the oversight, the version that would've made the album and a live version feature. Two of the other live tracks were recorded at Glasgow's Barrowlands - the crowd's reaction to "2cv" gives some indication to how popular the band were at the time.
For anyone who's a fan of the band or album, I would definitely recommend picking this up. As well as the bonus CD, it comes with a small booklet the band have put together covering their memories of the songs and recording sessions. (There's even mention of tennis matches against the Sisters of Mercy - who'd have pictured that !?!). However, with or without the extras, "Rattlesnakes is simply a must-have album : it doesn't sound twenty years old !