Creating a commotion in Portugal

Vaughan Willmore speaks with Lloyd Cole about his new album and his love of Portugal.

“I first visited Portugal in 1985 with my band, The Commotions. When we landed at the airport in Lisbon, they took us straight to our hotel in Estoril. There were thousands of fans there and our music seemed to be on every radio station. We never realised we were so popular in Portugal. We felt like The Beatles! I fell in love with the country, and I visit it every two years or so. I’ve often considered buying a place there, perhaps near Braga, which is a city I love.”

Lloyd Cole and his band shot to fame in 1984 with the release of their debut album Rattlesnakes. Lloyd’s handsome good looks and dress sense, together with the band’s poetic lyrics and striking melodies, catapulted him and fellow band members to international fame. Rattlesnakes is an album that, for many people, captures an extraordinary period in time. I asked Lloyd if, as a twenty-three-year-old, he had imagined what impact that album was about to have. “We certainly knew we’d produced something good. Looking back, I don’t think there are any weak tracks on it. Forty years on, I still think it’s a beautiful record.” 

© Jan Goedefroit 1986
© Chas Clark 1984

While the band ended just five years later, they have remained friends ever since, with Neil Clarke and Blair Cowan contributing to Lloyd’s latest album, On Pain. Released in June 2023, the new album marks a departure of sorts, with synthesisers at the fore instead of Lloyd’s more familiar. guitar-based sound. Lloyd’s lyrics, vocals and melodies, however, remain unchanged and wonderful. Indeed, the new album has received rave reviews, with one critic describing it as “The sound of an artist who never stops evolving and experimenting”.

Seven concerts are scheduled in Portugal, with Loulé (4 May) being the one date in the Algarve.  Lloyd will be performing solo with an acoustic, intimate set.  I asked if an acoustic set would present any challenges in performing tracks from his new album. “I think two or three of the songs will work well,” said Lloyd. “The rest of the show will be songs from various parts of my career.” And it has been quite a career. Lloyd has 12 solo albums and three albums with The Commotions to draw upon, so there’s plenty of excellent material available to him. “I have about 30 songs prepared,” said Lloyd. “One of the things I enjoy about performing solo is that I can easily change the set to suit the evening and the audience, making each concert a unique experience.”

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the release of his debut album, Rattlesnakes. It has been a career that has taken him from his birthplace in Buxton, Derbyshire, to Lancashire, Glasgow, London, New York City, and his current home in Massachusetts, where he lives with his wife and two children. When he’s not touring or recording, Lloyd enjoys playing golf – with a single-figure handicap, he is an accomplished golfer – and cycling.

Lloyd is making some of the best music of his life and is looking forward to visiting Portugal again. “It will be me and my guitar and my songs,” he said.  “Hopefully, we can create magical moments together in Portugal.” I don’t doubt for a second that will be the case, and Lloyd will continue making wonderful music to be enjoyed by audiences all over the world, including here in Portugal.


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