Twenty-five years ago this month, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions released their debut album, Rattlesnakes.

With songs like Perfect Skin and Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken?, the album blended lofty literary references, melancholy, and pure pop hooks to become an indie music classic and make Cole a mid-80s star.

"In the early days, being some kind of a pop star and trying to be on magazine covers was something I aspired to," he says on the phone from his adopted American hometown of Easthampton, Massachusetts. "And we got it all straight away because the band had only been together for less than year when Perfect Skin came out.

"I think we got very lucky on that record. We had a very specific idea of what we wanted to do, we went for it, and it worked. But we were never in that position again."

The band only released two more albums before breaking up in 1989, when Cole relocated to New York.

It was meant to be a six-month sabbatical but he ended up staying in the Big Apple for 11 years and has lived with his family in Easthampton ever since.

Cole is in New Zealand for a sold-out show at Auckland's Sale St on Monday before a string of shows around the country, and then back to Auckland's Windsor Castle for a final show on October 31.

He will be playing the likes of Are You Ready To Be Heartbroken, and others from the Commotions' debut, as well as songs like Brand New Friend, the deadpan and forlorn pop hit off 1985's follow-up, Easy Pieces.

"I try to play those most nights but sometimes if you've been playing them for a few years, you have to rest them for a while. Right now I'm resting Forest Fire [off Rattlesnakes], but I am playing Rattlesnakes".

Cole has had a successful solo career since going it alone, releasing seven solo albums, although he's never quite matched the wider success of the first two Commotions albums.

"I'm not entirely happy with the cult niche I've got now. I wish it was bigger, but I'm certainly not complaining," he laughs.

One of the things he is happy with is the number of songs he has to choose from for shows - "I don't really know how many albums I've got," he jokes. - and the set list changes regularly.

"In the back of my mind I think there are about a dozen songs that my fans would like to hear the most.

" Six or seven of those are from the Commotions and the rest are from the early solo records. But depending on what kind of mood I'm in there will be songs from every record."

Currently Cole is also in the process of recording his next solo album - and he's funding it a little differently this time round. He is asking fans to pre-order the album - that's US$45 ($59) - before it's even finished. So far, he says, the orders are going well.

"The idea isn't that groundbreaking, because people have done it before, and I don't really know if it's going to be a complete success, but it seemed like it was worth a try," he offers.

"To let the fans basically invest in the idea of a new record gives me a lot more freedom and a lot more bargaining power when I'm talking to record companies later.

"I'm still not altogether sure how I feel about it but I think it's better than taking an advance from a record company."

This year he has already released Cleaning Out the Ashtrays, a collection of B-sides and rarities from 1989-2006, and live album, Folksinger Vol. 1 & 2, which he describes as "a record of the show that people can buy when they're at the show".

Vol. 1 was recorded in front of a quiet and attentive German audience in Bremen, and Vol. 2 at rowdy Dublin venue, The Whelan.

"It's the Jekyll and Hyde of my live shows," he says.

It's fair to say his last studio album, Antidepressant from 2006, had a mid-life crisis mood to it. However, songs like Woman In A Bar, where he reveals how not even Scarlett Johanssen can distract him these days, also hints at a bloke who, at 48, is pretty happy with his lot.

"Happy is fair. I wouldn't say satisfied though, because there's always unfinished business," he laughs.

Who: Lloyd Cole
Where and when: Sale St, Freemans Bay, Monday (sold out); The Cabana, Napier, Oct 28; Windsor Castle, Parnell, Oct 31
Listen to: Rattlesnakes (1984); Easy Pieces (1985); Lloyd Cole (1990); Antidepressant (2006); Cleaning Out the Ashtrays (2009)