Saturday, May 31, 2008

Album of the Day--May 31, 2008

Jesus of Cool
Nick Lowe
Stiff Records
Produced by Nick Lowe

Yep-Roc Records has just released the 30th Anniversary special edition of Nick Lowe's first album (yikes--1978 was 30 years ago?!), which I highly recommend. Nick Lowe is a somewhat ironic figure; he was one of the driving forces behind the emergence of the British punk rock scene, and yet he wasn't all that fond of punk, at least in its rawest form (as exemplified by the Sex Pistols, The Damned, etc.), and always had more of a pop sensibility. He started out in the early 1970s as the leader of pub-rock favorites Brinsley Schwarz, which spearheaded a "back to basics" movement in reaction to all the progressive art rock that was around (I actually like both), which ultimately was the raison d'ĂȘtre of punk. When the Brinsleys imploded, Lowe went solo, and at the same time became house producer for the new Stiff Records, which signed many of the new bands--like The Damned, The Pretenders, etc. He also produced the first three albums by Graham Parker & The Rumour and all of Elvis Costello's albums up to 1982 (Lowe still turns up as bassist and producer for Costello). Lowe's 1976 single "So It Goes" (and the just-as-good B side "Heart of the City") was pop infused with a touch of punk. (And if you were listening to AM radio in 1979--as I was--there was no missing his only U.S. hit single "Cruel to Be Kind.") Anyway, his first album was eagerly awaited, and for good reason, as every track on it is a winner. (The American record label quailed over using "Jesus" in the title and released it over here as Pure Pop for Now People. And this was 1978; imagine the nutty everyone would pitch now.) The album demonstrated Lowe's pop songcraft, his trademark witty lyrics and no frills "bash it out" production style. The album opens with the almost heavy metal-y and sardonic "Music for Money," and switches gears with the new wave-y British single "I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass," purportedly written while his band was opening for Bad Company, who destroyed their dressing room. There is the tender love song "Little Hitler," title courtesy Elvis Costello (who would go one better on Armed Forces with "Two Little Hitlers"), and the album closes with the almost Paul McCartney-esque "Nutted by Reality." My favorite song has to be "Marie Provost," a Twilight-Zone-meets-Night-Gallery ditty about a faded movie star of the silent era ("She was a winner/Who became the doggy's dinner") whose career goes south with the advent of talkies and who ultimately ends up being eaten by her pet dog ("That hungry little dachshund!"). The backing musicians include members of Graham Parker's Rumour and Elvis Costello's Attractions, as well as guitarists Dave Edmunds and Billy Bremner and drummer Terry Williams--who, with Lowe, toured as Rockpile, and whose sole studio album Seconds of Pleasure will probably be album of the day very soon.

No comments: