My favorite Lloyd Cole and the Commotions album and one of my top 25 records of the entire 1980s, Mainstream ended up suffering from the same record company dickery that delayed their first couple of records, and in fact, almost didn’t come out on these shores at all, eventually surfacing nearly a year after the October 1987 U.K. release.
Luckily, Tim — who was living in the U.K. at that time that time — bought a copy for me and brought it when he came across for Christmas in late 1987. It turned out to be a perfect record for 1988, and so all of Lloyd’s draggy beats and druggy words about the consequence of bad young love resonated with the same frequency as my heart all damn year.
And it starts at the beginning, with the indie-dance opener, “My Bag” where Lloyd tosses speedfreak jive over the rejuvenated Neil Clark’s multiple guitar riffs.
Hey I was walking my bag
Through a 20 storey non stop snow storm
Pirrelli calendar girls wrestling in body lotion
My head’s swimming with poetry and prose
Excuse me one moment whilst I powder my nose
Me and my good thing are just about as close as can be
We gave up sleep at the age of 17
My world’s getting bigger as my eyesight gets worse
I can’t see the lines on my idiot board
What about love?
I don’t let that stuff in my house
This is the glamorous life
There’s no time for fooling around
This was music made for people who not only planned to get a whole shitload of coke to see their friends’ band play on New Years Eve, they bought vials to surreptitiously distribute the coke and then proceeded to decorate those vials in order to personalize them. And while that reality was all less glamorous than the scene that Lloyd describes, in 1988, there was a certain thrill every time he bounced into the chorus of “My Bag.”
Lord have mercy I know what I’m doing
I don’t need an alibi
I need a fire escape and an open window
It’s my problem it’s nothing I can’t deal with
I’m not chasing anything just jogging baby
What’s your bag?
Despite the bass-drum breakdown in the middle and cowbell during the guitar-driven instrumental break, “My Bag” was really more indie than dance, especially by today’s standards, but that was OK, because unlike the first two Lloyd Cole & The Commotions albums, Mainstream wasn’t really a communal experience, because it wasn’t widely available, and was also somewhat darker of a record.
I’m sure I made tapes of it for people and played the import copy I bought on KFSR, but I’m going to guess that there are going to be a few raised eyebrows at me calling this my favorite Lloyd Cole album. But it is. And I think it’s because unlike the first two, Mainstream wasn’t a communal experience for me, but rather a personal one.
Official video for “My Bag”
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