Nick Lowe Waxes Melancholic at 45 (RPM)—He's Considerably Older, Of Course
Lowe shames the rain (via a Tom T. Hall tune), reads a lot and admits his youthful fuck ups repeated in later life don't wear as well. "You've broken something this time stoplight roses can't mend," he tells himself on the opener. "You'll last about as long as stoplight roses do," he warns himself.
Lowe is calmly reflective throughout, summoning up the musical styles of the '50s and '60s. "Restless Feeling" sounds like something drawn from a 1950's television show or commercial. There are hints of Bacharach-David, some well camouflaged country pathos ( Elvis Costello's "Poisoned Rose"), and other subtle reflections of familiar musical genres, all filtered through Lowe's sophisticated producer's mind.
It's a bloodshot lounge-lizard's vantage point, finely honed from a sloppy wet kiss of self-pity, so purely played that you happily listen in to the exasperated misery. He plays his loneliness with the heaviness of a soufflé.
The final tune, "Til the Real Thing Comes Along" is an early '60s confection only someone who lived through that time could have possibly produced in 2012 and the cynical sentiment floats comfortably atop the nostalgic backdrop.
Sometimes the album almost sounds as if Lowe is trying to channel what Buddy Holly might be doing now had he lived.
While the songs are short, there are eleven of them—one better than the next—that the cutting engineer somehow manages to fit comfortably at 45rpm onto a single LP. The arrangements for drums, keyboards, guitar, vibraphone and bass with a string section on one track are so solidly drawn behind Lowe's hypnotic vocals, you might not even notice their brilliance until you've played the record a few times.
The recording is fine, but obviously fitting so many tunes at 45rpm onto a single LP requires dynamic compression and that gives the production an odd "AM/FM" quality. It's a pleasing effect that's not bothersome in the least, especially since the entire album is a low key, reflective affair.
You'll come away from the first listen, bemused, entertained and somehow fueled with optimism despite the lyrical darkness. Upon further listening, Lowe's incredible craft both as a lyricist and writer of deft melodies will shine through and more listening will reveal the production and arranging sheen that add up to a deceptively low key, compact album that just under the surface is filled with a dense underbrush of brilliant, perfectly realized ideas.