Notes On Music By Lloyd Cole: Music Is Everywhere

Lloyd Cole first made a name for himself in 1984 with the Commotions, the British band he founded in Scotland before relocating to New York City four years later. Since, he has released records both as a solo artist and with the Negatives. Now based in western Massachusetts, Cole recently formed the Small Ensemble. The trio is joined by the likes of Fred Maher, Joan Wasser and Kendall Meade for new album Broken Record (Tapete), Cole’s first “rock” LP in almost a decade. Cole will also be guest editing all week. Read our new Q&A with him. Says Cole as an introduction/disclaimer for his guest-editing posts, “I am 50 years old. More than twice the age I was when I began making music. I have developed opinions, certainly, and these opinions have evolved, but I can only speak for myself. I am still astonished by music. I am still perplexed by it. I am still moved by it. I am still revulsed by it. And I am more and more confused by how others make use of music in their lives. Music seems to be everywhere. Here are some of my thoughts on it.”

Cole: We just stopped at a gas station. I don’t need a soundtrack to filling the tank.

My family took a cruise a few years ago to celebrate a relative’s birthday. Not a single public space on the ship was without piped music. The decks with the sunloungers, the restaurants, the bars, everywhere I went. Isn’t the sound of the ocean supposedly calming? Eventually, I found a bartender I could bribe for an hour or so, and I took mid-afternoon martinis with a book in silence. It shouldn’t be that difficult.

Hotel Lobby Music
You spend millions of dollars designing and building your hotel, you hire architects, interior designers and every imaginable consultant try to establish your unique niche. And then you spend an hour at iTunes perusing generic new-age playlists, and then you play your purchases all day, every day. There are better options. Like silence.

Music is not some kind of spiritual superglue. It doesn’t make me feel any better on the runway before take off or in the elevator as the power is about to shut down. It isn’t welcoming for my hotel TV to auto-tune to the radio as I open the door. It doesn’t make me spend more. When there is always music then music ceases to have meaning and becomes just another addition to the noise floor. If the restaurant music is so quiet that it is impossible to discern what it is, why not turn it off? Many great restaurants offer only the hum of humanity. In the Paris brasseries, make that the roar. It’s a wonderful sound.

I know I’m in minority here, I have discussed this with intelligent hoteliers and restauranteurs, and the accepted wisdom in in place. Music is good. People like it. It improves atmosphere. I beg to differ. Turn it off. And then when you hear something beautiful you might actually take notice.

Rebellious Jukebox
One of the most enjoyable tasks of my adult life came in the early ‘90s when the owner of our local bar asked my wife and me to restock the jukebox. In those days, we were talking about a hundred 45-rpm singles. We spent an afternoon in Tower Records on Broadway buying Frank Sinatra, Jane’s Addiction, Lulu, the Jackson 5, the Clash, LL Cool J. There was only one Led Zeppelin 45, so we bought it, too. We knew all the regulars, we knew what they played, and possibly more importantly, we knew what they didn’t want to hear. None of us wanted to listen to some 20-something screaming about how he is not understood. None of us wanted to hear a bunch of stoned hippies jamming. Which isn’t to say that this wouldn’t be perfect for another bar.

Recently, my current local—about three hours to the north, in small-town Massachusetts—switched to an internet jukebox. The patrons can now play almost anything, and they do. There is a quaint No Meatloaf Rule, which has always been in place, but this now only serves to emphasize the new libertarianism. I will be staying home more than I used to, certainly Tuesdays (pool league). Other nights, I will be searching out Eno and John Cage pieces and wasting my money just to make a point.

And Not Everyone Appreciates Busking
I’m sure I’m not alone on this.

Videos after the jump.

4 replies on “Notes On Music By Lloyd Cole: Music Is Everywhere”

… every point you made here. We are inundated with music let alone video everywhere we go now! I was at a gas station filling up and I did not see the need to be “entertained” by a video screen at a gas pump with some MTV bullshit spewing nonsense at me loudly. Stop trying to sell me shit.
And I agree about restaurants and bars too… it’s loud and distracting enough just being there. If music NEEDS to be played, how about playing something soothing like classical music?

make that a long dark sigh. it’s what i do. i’m selfish, i know. but i want to hear what i want to hear when i want to hear it, and the rest of the noise can rot in hell. and for God’s sake – if you feel you must put music into your hotel, restaurant, gas station, etc., Please do so with a Decent system. i can play music on my phone and it sounds great, but if i call into Verizon or other “hold time required” system, it always sounds like a bad 8-track. (yea, @ 50 i can remember 8-tracks.)

cheers *clink*

i worked in retail establishments a good part of my adult life, in which i was forced to listen to the muzak the company chose. i am most sincere when i say i believe this is a form of torture, to be trapped in an environment and forced to listen to the same playlist over and over: michael bolton and whitney houston, mariah carey and richard marx. it is insidious, it starts to creep under the skin. your brain shuffles the notes and the lyrics, searching for something to latch onto. it does, and you find yourself desperately singing along. at this point all hope is lost.

Comments are closed.