‘The extent of his studies left a jaded man’

In 1990, free of the Commotions and lost in New York, Lloyd Cole did what men in their twenties with boho affinities do: drink and grow a beard. He also hooked up with Fred Maher and Robert Quine, late of Lou Reed’s band and collaborators with Green Gartside on Scritti Politti’s Cupid & Psyche ’85. With Matthew Sweet on bass, they recorded an eponymous Lloyd Cole album that’s leagues ahead of any Commotions record in tuff guitar talk and sardonic inflections. Encouraged, Cole took the boys into the studio again for 1991’s Don’t Get Weird On Me, Babe, one of my favorite forgotten records. Why this record never took but Sweet’s Girlfriend did (same cast, with Cole on rhythm guitar) remains a mystery, but I suspect the label didn’t want to promote more than one of these albums so they went with the sweet-voiced dude. Also, #Nirvana. Finally, what do you do with a record that’s got string arrangements dressing the songs on the second side? Answer: wait seven years to place the excellent “Margo’s Waltz” on the There’s Something About Mary soundtrack. A year after Cole’s record disappeared, the better known Morrissey lost the echo and keyboards and hired Mick Ronson for Your Arsenal.

Sporting a roaring guitar sound and the line “she’s gotta be the stupidest girl I’ve eve seen,” “She’s a Girl and I’m a Man” doesn’t come off mean to my ears, largely because the dude in the song is pretty stupid too. At any rate Quine’s riff as usual creates its own imperative, and Cole, unlike Sweet, gave him songwriting credit. I won’t say Don’t Get Weird On Me, Babe surpasses any entry in Sweet’s college radio trilogy — Sweet is a sap but also a star, therefore it’s impossible to imagine Cole writing a tune with the title “Sick of Myself” — but it’s less monotonous and blessed with a sense of adventure.

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