Lloyd Cole and the Commotions: Rattlesnakes, Deluxe Edition (Universal)

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Lloyd Cole: Perfect Skin (demo version)
Lloyd Cole and the Commotions: Rattlesnakes, Deluxe Edition (Universal)

As with any year 1984 threw up some odd conjunctions, but to be honest Mr Orwell's year seemed odder than most: Springsteen's Born in the USA and Prince's 1999 competed for attention with Madonna and Cyndi Lauper.

U2's Unforgettable Fire and REM's Reckoning arrived, so did Wham's Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go, Culture Club, Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Sade, lots of eyeliner -- and Bob Dylan and Liberace were guests on the same David Letterman Show.

Suzanne Vega was hailed as the fresh new voice.

Somewhere in all this Lloyd Cole and the Commotions released their terrific debut album Rattlesnakes.

It was smart, poppy but thoughtful, intense but approachable, and chock full of memorable songs with choruses.

Its lyrical cleverness -- references to writers Truman Capote, Joan Didion and Norman Mailer (which Cole rhymes with "get a new tailor") -- saw it nailed as a student bedsit classic. Julie Birchill sniffily said she had no use for a country'n'western Velvet Underground.

The fact was however that Rattlesnakes was one of the finest albums of 80s, and still sounds fresh today. It bristles with ideas and melodies, and is shot through with fine musicianship. In that regard -- and that regard alone I hasten to add -- it recalls the first Dire Straits album which also seemed to arrive out of its time, was much reviled by hip critics, and yet has endured (if you can put aside prejudice about their latter stadium years).

This double disc with the original Rattlesnakes album on one and some edgy and tense live tracks, demo versions, B-side and outtakes on the other came out on the 20th anniversary of the album's release and reminds you that it was, and is, very, very good.

(And there are gems aplenty on the second disc)

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