And then of course there’s the uncategorizeable “I Trained Her To Love Me,” the confessions of a misogynistic S.O.B. addicted to serial heartbreaking. “And I’m gonna start working on another after this,” he warns us darkly, “And when I get her in a state of bliss / Betray her with a kiss.” It’s outrageous, unsettling, and very funny. For this alone you should buy the album.
On one hand, you get an R&B charmer like “Hope For Us All” (“But if even I, a feckless man / Who’s thrown away every single chance he’s ever had / Can find someone to check his fall / There must be hope for us all”). Here the raspy quaver in Lowe’s seasoned voice makes this against-all-odds romantic reprieve even more touching. But it’s balanced by “People Change,” a funky meditation on the inevitability of relationship meltdowns. “Prepare yourself for it / Or get bit,” Nick quips nonchalantly, with brassy back-up vocals by Chrissy Hynde. And in case you didn’t get the point, he follows that up with two more rueful complaints, the Charlie Feathers cover “A Man In Love” and the weathered sounding ballad “Love’s Got A Lot To Answer For,” with its melancholy New Orleans horns.
You have to be older than 23 to be this reliably cynical about love, that’s for sure. Even the gently lilting acoustic number, “Rome Wasn’t Built In a Day,” has a stubborn weariness as he contemplates how long it’ll take to wear down a woman he’s pursuing. Lowe slips into a jazz ensemble for “The Other Side Of The Coin,” where the retro sound gives the song’s narrator an aura of smoking-jacket suavity, even as he fires off a vicious parting salvo to his ex-lover. Geraint Watkins splashes of cocktail lounge piano work perfectly here.
Okay, it’s true, Nick Lowe doesn’t turn it up to eleven anymore (unlike his protégée Elvis Costello, who is still known to crank out a blistering rendition of Lowe’s “What So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love, and Understanding”). But volume and tempo are severely overrated in my book. I’d rather have intelligence and heart any day. For some 15 years now, Nick Lowe has been distilling his own musical idiom, one that defies genre. Let’s just call it pure pop and drink it in.
Just promise me one thing. Don’t make us wait another six years, Nick. We need you too much.