Originally a b-side to “From The Hip,” — the last thing I ever bought by Lloyd Cole & The Commotions while they were still a band — the languid, dreamy “Love Your Wife” is the equal to any song they ever released.
A lot of times when a song this good isn’t on an album, especially an album already as great as Mainstream, it really bugs me. But honestly, I can see how “Love Your Wife” didn’t quite fit on Mainstream in the same way “Andy’s Babies” didn’t fit on Rattlesnakes.
But more’s the pity, as it meant that “Love Your Wife” is even more obscure than the album it was recorded for, and in fact it didn’t even get officially digitally released until 2015’s Collected Recordings 1983 – 1989, and isn’t a song that Lloyd has ever played live, or probably ever will.
“Love Your Wife” features one last great Neil Clark guitar part: he winds a psychedelic haze around Lloyd’s chiming rhythm guitar, setting up a question to which we already know the answer.
After being drunk for eleven years
Did you ever feel like
Some little thing
Pretty little thing
Could be missing from your life?
Supposedly, the original plan for Mainstream was to make it bigger-sounding, and more stadium rock than their first two records. And while Mainstream didn’t quite turn out that way, “Love Your Wife” was clearly a product of this approach, as it sounds more like R.E.M. or The Smiths than anything they ever recorded. (And weirdly, looks ahead to the Robert Quine leads on his first solo album.)
And yet, it’s clearly Lloyd Cole & The Commotions all the way down, especially when Lloyd sinuously wraps his voice around the final, taunting chorus:
Did you ever feel like
Some little vagabond
Could be messing with your wife?
Messing with your life?
After that, it’s Neil Clark going off to the races, adding another guitar overdub, zinging and zanging around the other guitars for about another minute before the song finally fades out.
I don’t remember when I found out that Lloyd Cole and the Commotions were breaking up, but I’m sure it was after I got “Love Your Wife,” and the fact that they didn’t move further down this path has always made me sad.
As the vinyl age turned into the CD age turned into the digital age, I looked for this song for years and years: used CD stores, Napster, Usenet, .mp3 blogs, torrentz, anything to replace what I’d ripped from a mixtape I made back in 1988. But there seemed to be only one version out there, full of pops and hisses and clicks and digital noise. Such are the frustrations of this level of craziness. You better believe I was soooooo glad when Lloyd finally got around to getting it officially re-released over a quarter-century after it initially came out.
“Love Your Wife”
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