Thursday, October 15, 2009

Speak Lowe Or Forever Hold Your Peace

Based on this report from one of Nick Lowe's two recent NYC shows, it seems that concertgoers at City Winery are working hard to confirm the worst fears a music fan such as myself might have about attending a show at an "urban winery" (not that I have anything against wine or urbanity per se):

Folks were way too sedate. When a few of us enthusiasts dared to sing along on the chorus of “Cruel to Be Kind,” horrified shushes came our way.

Maybe these were just hardcore Lowephiles, or maybe the singing was horribly loud and out-of-tune, but I thought singing along was a culturally accepted ritual, a well-established part of the rock'n'roll tradition. Even though it might sometimes be annoying in practice, it should be taken as a sign of enthusiasm, of engagement with the music, and thus something to be encouraged, or at least tolerated. It's not like trying to loudly scat along with a piano player at the Village Vanguard, although the occasional vocalization of approval from the crowd at a jazz show is a pretty welcome thing, too, as far as I'm concerned.

Unfortunately, I missed him this time around, but just for fun, here's a hastily assembled, not-in-any-particular-order Top Ten of my favorite Nick Lowe tracks:

"What's Shakin' On the Hill"
From 1989, slightly predating and providing a template for his latter day, easygoing crooner phase, it might also be the best song he's ever done in that mode. Comparable to Elvis Costello's "Poisoned Rose" in the spare, elegant perfection department. A whole post about it here (with video links).

"All Men Are Liars"
Well-crafted, catchy pop tunes that are also funny are not as common as you might think. This one gets the hook-to-yuk ratio just about right and gets off a quality cheap shot at Rick Astley a good decade and a half before the RickRoll phenomenon.

"So It Goes"
Nick's immortal early single, from the heady days when pub rock was giving way to punk.

"Marie Provost"
I've said it before, I'll say it again: best "forgotten silent movie actress eaten by her own dog" song EVER. Nick even misspelled her name (on purpose? to avoid some kind of lawsuit?).

Borderline bubblegum from the Rockpile era later remade by Nick with some dub/reggae touches. I like both versions.

"When I Write The Book"
I actually think I love this song mostly for the acoustic guitar sound, one of the best I've ever heard, on the Rockpile version.

"(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding"
What more can be said about this one.

"Queen of Sheba"
Kind of a minor, modest Nick number, but then again, much of his career has been based on taking small, sometimes silly ideas and cutting and polishing them into little, sparkling gems.

"(For Every Woman Who Ever Made a Fool of a Man There's A Woman Who Made A) Man of a Fool"
Once you've come up with that title, there's not much more you have to do, or so Nick's deceptively casual songwriting might lead you to believe. Outside the realm of country, Nick Lowe and Elvis Costello are probably the greatest ever practitioners of "come up with a clever title and fill in the blanks" songwriting (as well as its oft-maligned sister discipline, pun-based songwriting).

"Love Like a Glove"
Sex similes are a long and proud songwriting tradition, but this is a particularly fine example, composed by Nick's then-wife Carlene Carter. I wonder if the Bottle Rockets' "Love Like a Truck" was a nod to Carlene and this song.

Bonus Links

another review of one of the City Winery gigs

No comments: