Certain Songs #946: Lloyd Cole & The Commotions – “Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken?”

Album: Rattlesnakes
Year: 1984

It’s been obscured by decades of reissues that had bonus tracks and non-album b-sides, but this little beauty was the last song on the original version of Rattlesnakes, and at first it felt too low-key to be an album closer, all infinite loop acoustic guitar and accordion synth and — wait a second, is that a drum machine?

No, seriously, is that a drum machine? I mean, Paul Westerberg could get away with it, because “Color Me Impressed” and “Hayday” were on the same record, but that’s some nerve of this intellectual Scottish pretty boy to put one on his record. Doesn’t he understand anything?

Of course he did. Because Lloyd Cole knew that none of that macho bullshit mattered once he started singing:

Looking like a born again
Living like a heretic
Listening to Arthur Lee records
Making all your friends feel so guilty
About their cynicism
And the rest of their generation
Not even the government
Are gonna stop you now

I mean, in 1985, it wasn’t like the kids were wearing out their turntables endlessly playing Forever Changes, so tying his music to that record was a bit of a risk, but at the same time, Forever Changes — an utterly classic album dominated by acoustic guitar, strings and horns — was also a pretty good reference point for the appeal of Lloyd Cole for me.

Also, the utter gorgeousness of the ultra lush chorus helped.

But are you ready to be heartbroken?
Are you ready to be heartbroken?

And in 1985 — also, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1990, 1991 & 1992 — my answer was a resounding “yes.” It’s such an eternal question, of course, that 22 years later, Camera Obscura answered it with “Lloyd, I’m Ready To Be Heartbroken

Near the end of the song, Neil Clark comes in with one last amazing hook, winding himself around the overly-lush-by-half backing vocals as Lloyd made absolutely sure that you were ready to be heartbroken. Which of course, you were, too.

“Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken”

“Are You Ready to Be Heartbroken” performed live, 1985

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