Tuesday, September 13, 2011


Long-time readers of this space (okay, there are none, but you get the point) will know of my abiding passion for the wit and wisdom of Mr. Lowe.  I loved him back in the day, leading the New Wave, fronting Rockpile, producing the first-ever punk album (from The Damned), all of Costello's early efforts, writing What's So Funny 'Bout Peace, Love and Understanding, and bashing it all out without spilling a drop.  That was then.

This is now, and Lowe, for the past decade, has reinvented himself as the sophisticated crooner, but a new and very individual style.  Lowe hasn't gone the obvious route of remaking The Great American Retread Songbook (I'm looking at you, Rod Stewart), nor has he simply gone to Motown Retirement Home for Old Songs and Old Singers (time for your pills, Michael McDonald).  Instead, he's back in the 50's and 60's, but coming up with his own songs for the most part, based on original sounds of that time.  Lowe has essentially moved himself back to that era, and claimed the music as his own, whether its rockabilly, lounge, soul, countrypolitan, sort of a Madmen mix tape.

Lowe's had a successful trio of these discs, and why change now?  But he does tinker a little bit, for fun and to not stagnate.  This time, on about half the cuts you could call this Nick Lowe and his Happy Organ.  It's an almost-cheesy, rinky-dink sound, kind of like skating rink music, but it works great.  Combined with some ballads, and Nick's knack for writing lyrics which hold your attention, you quickly become glued to the disc.  I hang on every syllable, waiting for the next gem to drop.

I love it when he comes up with new takes on classic themes, such as Stoplight Roses, where our straying hero won't be able to get back in his love's good graces with just a gesture of cheap flowers bought at the traffic stop.  I Read A Lot is the response of the brokenhearted, all he does to replace his lost love.  Til' The Real Thing Comes Along is the desperate plan offered by the man suffering from unrequited love, saying he'll stay until the real man of her dreams arrives.  Aching stuff.

There seems to be more emphasis on Lowe's voice in the production, or the songs feature the performance more than in the past.  Either way, I found myself noticing that he's actually a fine singer, with a relaxed mellowness.  There is one moment though, in his cover of Costello's Poisoned Rose, where he hits and holds a big, solid tone, and the transition from sloppy rocker to sensitive song master is now complete.

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