Record Exchange vet Dan Krejci chose Lloyd Cole and the Commotions‘ Rattlesnakes as his Staff Pick of the Week. And here’s what he had to say about it:
1984, there was an actor in the White House and his Bedtime for Bonzo ilk with their Gipper cronies were slowly but surely bringing the social science fiction terms and concepts of Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime and Newspeak to fruition with their voodoo economics and culture wars. Amongst this maelstrom of negative socio-political and ahistorical legislation, there was a small subculture of post-punk dreamers who were naïve and young enough to still believe that the world was our oyster, and in 1984 came the release of this pearl of an album by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions.
In an attempt to find an answer to the phenomenon that was swirling around the American band, R.E.M., the U.K. indie scene tried to give us Prefab Sprout, but they were too flowery. So then they gave us Aztec Camera and they were too pretentiously arty. It wasn’t until Lloyd Cole, with his collegiate lyrical wit, and the Commotions, with their melodramatic musical prowess, that the U.K. found the band with the right album that had the propulsive kick and vitality to challenge the jangle and garage pop sensibilities that R.E.M. had so masterfully created with their psychedelic renaissance.
The themes that circulate throughout Rattlesnakes were ahead of their time. In 1984, the if-you-graduate-from-college-a-six-figure-job-awaits-you myth pervaded the American dreamscape, but for our compatriots across the big pond, overeducated and underemployed was the true reality, and metaphors of broken love mixed with profound character sketches are the dominant themes that make up the beauty and the beast of the songs found on Rattlesnakes.
Songs like “Perfect Skin” (diplomas used to be printed on sheep’s skin) read like the diary of a doctoral candidate on the dole realizing that beauty takes precedence of brains in the marketplace. The song “Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken” sums up the cynicism that a bachelor’s degree will give you the key to the executive bathroom, but that’s only because you are the janitor. The title song “Rattlesnakes” dutifully warns all women that it is better to have a gun than a master’s degree when it comes to fighting misogyny and economic equality in the typical male workplace. It is these thought-provoking themes that give this 25+ year old album its longevity that still rattles with freshness and snakes its way into today’s world where those of us who realize that we are overeducated and underemployed are no longer a subculture, we are the casualties of conservative cultural hegemony, bitten to the bone by their the venomous fallacies of trickle-down economics.