Two of the best modern rock albums of the ’90s were released in ’91 – what do they have in common? Almost everything.
Lloyd Cole is a Scottish modern rock singer/songwriter in the manner of Robyn Hitchcock or John Wesley Harding who has not been appropriately appreciated in the U.S. Cole’s ’84 album Rattlesnakes (with his band the Commotions) is one of the ’80’s best. Cole moved to New York in ’90 and Fred Maher co-produced his fine self-titled solo debut, but his next, Don’t Get Weird On Me Babe, is even better.
Maher put his guitar-recording skills to good use on the jangling, Byrdsian songs, especially “Tell Your Sister,” “She’s a Girl and I’m a Man” and “Pay For It.”
What a band!: Cole and Robert Quine on guitars, Maher on drums, Matthew Sweet on bass and backing vocals. The album displays extraordinary range – percussion-and-accordion Latin-pop on “Man Enough,” moody orchestral numbers “There For Her” and “Margo’s Waltz,” Eagles-like (except for the Scottish brogue) country rock on “Weeping Wine” – and superior songwriting throughout.
Much of the same crew recorded Matthew Sweet’s gold Girlfriend (both albums were largely recorded at New York’s Axis Studios): Maher co-producing and playing drums, Quine and Cole (in addition to Television’s Richard Lloyd) on guitars, Sweet on bass.
Sweet shows as much range as Cole, with the whole operation skewed a few notches harder. Throughout, Sweet’s songwriting and singing shine along with Maher’s sensitive production.
The title track is one of the great rockers of the ’90s: Quine’s searing leads burn through the intro and the breaks, and Sweet’s ballsy tenor conveys determination and vulnerability as he tries to persuade a young woman that she should be his girlfriend.