Sunday, April 3, 2011
MUSIC REVIEW OF THE DAY: NICK LOWE - LABOUR OF LUST
The next installment in the Nick reissues sees his second solo disc tarted up, although not to the extent of the previous issue, Jesus Of Cool, which saw a whack of bonus cuts. This time, the 1979 album gets just a couple of familiar b-sides added to the platter, Endless Grey Ribbon and Basing Street. Meh, no matter, the original disc is fine and dandy and sweet as candy, and it's been a long time since it's been in print. This is Lowe's solo high point, with the album a strong seller, and its single, Cruel To Be Kind, nearly making the Top Ten. It was also a high-water mark for New Wave, with Nick and Dave Edmunds and Rockpile, plus Elvis Costello, Squeeze and Graham Parker all looking like the next big thing.
It didn't quite work out that way, but apart from Edmunds, all have enjoyed long and excellent careers, and this disc remains a strong favourite of Nick fans. Recorded with his Rockpile pals, Lowe and the group spit out classic rock and pop, with every imaginable hook shoved in. Lowe was Abbott to Elvis's Costello, the composer of some of the great puns in pop, a British Chuck Berry. There's A Dose Of You with it's "I need a stiff shot badly" line. American Squirm features the memorable "tried to mate in a horrible state", and Cruel To Be Kind itself is just chock-full of the best rhymes, including "you say your love is bona fide/but that don't coincide...". It's just a joy to listen to these songs every time.
Lowe could seemingly knock off these homage numbers at will, with a complete love and knowledge of roots rock. Without Love was a classic rockabilly tribute, and at any moment, any song could have a little soul moment. But you never felt like it was retro, as Lowe and Rockpile piled so much energy and modern slang into the mix, it was the hippest thing on the block. Umm, in 1979 at least. Look, to my ears this sounds as fresh as ever, and it's still one of my all-time favourite disks. Given the hipster love of roots stuff these days, I think there's lots of 20-somethings that could dig his mood these days as well.