Nick Lowe & Los Straitjackets - Love Starvation EP
I recently read an article that said Nick Lowe was in the ‘third act’ of his career. This EP, three original songs and a somewhat obscure cover, along with last year’s 4-track Tokyo Bay EP (www.tinyurl.com/tokyolowe), provide plenty of evidence that Nick’s third act is the equal of or better than the first two. Mind you that Nick’s first 2 acts surpass most singer-songwriters, so this is no small thing. I remember a quote from Nick in his 40’s saying essentially that in twenty years he’d really be able to write a good song. Now, seventy-year old Nick Lowe really does write really good songs, and lots of them. But let’s not forget his genius backing band, Los Straitjackets, they of the surf music and Mexican wrestling masks. At first this pairing seems incongruous, but after the Tokyo Bay EP triumph and after seeing Nick and The Straitjackets live twice (www.tinyurl.com/zubnickpeel), they seem a perfect fit. There’s no schlock, just great arrangements from a band that can essentially play anything (check out their take on the Game Of Thrones theme). Nick and the Straitjackets are a team, not a singer and a backing band, but an astute combination that unites to serve their common love of early, pre-British invasion American rock and roll. The EP opens up with ‘Love Starvation,’ with a strong Ritchie Valens-at-the- beach vibe. This demonstrates the alchemy of combining Nick and The Straitjackets: plenty of trebly surf soloing serving a classic Nick tale of love lost. Chris Sprague’s drumming is a real standout on this one. ‘Blue On Blue’ is a classic, sounding like it belongs on an Everly Brothers record. The simple four chord attack is beautiful and evergreen, Nick’s weathered voice never better, and the quiet breakdown in the middle will bring you to tears:
In my mind/ I’m on the end of a ball of twine/ That she jerks from time to time/ time for blue on blue
This one is a real triumph. Instant classic. ‘Next up, ‘Trombone’ is a peppy pop tune that has some Burt Bacharach elements. Bassist Pete Curry kills this one, and of course there are trombones. This one will sneak up on you and you’ll be humming it all day. EP closer ‘Raincoat In The River’ was a Phil Spector production for Sammy Turner from 1961 and is considered a ‘Northern Soul’ track. (We discuss the British ‘Northern Soul’ phenomenon in SGS 025, Soft Cell/Tainted Love (www.tinyurl.com/zubtaintedlove). There is also a version from 1965 by Rick Nelson, and an even more obscure version from Australia’s Dig Richards in 1962. I’m thinking Nick was aware of all these versions, but his biographer Will Birch postulates that he is probably working from the Sammy Turner cover (http://nicklowebiography.com/). His cover still sounds like a Nick Lowe original. It’s a beautiful, Brill-Building sort of timeless pre-beat group pop, and it is wonderful. Nick Lowe knows better than ever how to write perfect, aching pop/rock songs and to select rare cover gems.You need the Love Starvation EP: Nick proves he’s still the Jesus of Cool!