To this day, though, none of Lowe's albums sound as good to me as Labour of Lust, where he bucked his connection to England's pub-rock scene (as a member of Brinsley Schwarz and Rockpile) to make perfect power pop. He's backed by the members of Rockpile—guitarists Dave Edmunds and Billy Bremner and drummer Terry Williams—and the album features cameos from Costello, Attractions drummer Pete Thomas, and Huey Lewis (blowing some harmonica on "Born Fighter"). Lowe alternates between tunes with insanely catchy, beautifully crafted melodies (the title track, "American Squirm," "You Make Me") and badass rockers ("Cracking Up," "Big Kick, Plain Scrap," "Switchboard Susan"), and his sound links punk, new wave, and what would soon be known as classic rock. (You can check out "Cracking Up" below.)
Labour of Lust has been unjustly out of print in the U.S. for more than two decades, but a couple of weeks ago Yep Roc, which has released Lowe's most recent albums and also reissued his great debut, Jesus of Cool, corrected that problem. The Yep Roc edition of the record includes "Endless Grey Ribbon" (which was only on the British version) and "American Squirm" (which was only on the U.S. version), plus "Basing Street," the delicate flip side of "Switchboard Susan." There are decent liner notes from pub-rock historian Will Birch and a short essay from Lowe's former A&R man Gregg Geller, the guy who convinced the singer to cut a new version of "Cruel to Be Kind"—Lowe had originally recorded it with Brinsley Schwarz as the band was fading. Of course I don't need an excuse to play an album as good as this one—the nice packaging and notes are just icing.
Nick Lowe, "Cracking Up":
Harley Gaber, I Saw My Mother Ascending Mount Fuji (Innova)
Marty Ehrlich, Fables (Tzadik)
Aynur, Rewend (Arista, Turkey)
Los Lobos, Tin Can Trust (Shout! Factory)
Marcelo D2, Canta Bezerra da Silva (EMI, Brazil)