We’ve approached this subject from a few different angles in the past and as Townspeople continue to age and try to figure out what it’s all about, Alfie, I’m sure this won’t be the last time this comes up. Recently I was listening to my “best of” CD mix that I made of the last three Nick Lowe albums (no surprise that Lowe is already back in the conversation, is it?), and I was thinking to myself, Although Nick’s music from the last 10 years is nowhere near as original and energetic as his early burst of activity, these favorte dozen songs of his from recent albums are beginning to make me think less of his first two albums. Jeez, I’m beginning to feel like much of his earlier works was “kids’ stuff!”
My conversation with myself continued, as I tried to put these thoughts in proper perspective: OK, nothing matches “Cruel to Be Kind” – and I’ll still stand by “So It Goes,” “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass,” and “Big Kick, Plain Scrap!” – but if I’m honest with myself the rest of those first two album sink or swim on the strength of each song’s arrangements. I love “Skin Deep,” for instance, but it’s mainly because of the interplay of the guitars and the reliance of the quick switches from I to IV chords. The juvenile lyrics do little for me. “Cracking Up” just sounds cool, thanks to the guitar interplay; it’s basically a Dave Edmunds song with better vocals. Same goes for Lowe’s cover of “Switchboard Susan.”
Believe it or not, I wasn’t done having this discussion with myself: As for Pure Pop for Now People, that album always had a bunch of songs that were too juvenile for me to like. (Yeah, I know, I was old before my time and all that jazz. Deal with it!) “Marie Provost” has some good music, but how many times can I get off on the “doggie’s dinner” joke? “Heart of the City” is cool, but that gets back to my Dave Edmunds song with better vocals point…
I concluded by trying to better define my terms: So what I’m saying is that Nick Lowe’s “mature” work over his last three albums has threatened to put his beloved earlier works to shame – for me. Is there another artist whose mature works I can say that about?
I thought for a moment, and The Beatles were the first band that came to mind. Once I heard the relative maturity of the pot-smoking Beatles my love for their first couple of records, albeit great works, was overshadowed. But 2 years does not make the sort of leap into “maturity” that I think of with Nick Lowe. I thought about Dylan, whose acknowledged burst of pre-“motorcycle accident” activity is considered his peak. I really love the post-“motorcycle accident” album John Wesley Harding, at times to the point that it makes his earlier, ranting, accusatory works sound less powerful than I once heard them in my own younger, more prone to ranting, accusatory days. But Dylan’s output after that is so up and down that I can’t say any run of mature works ever threatened his mid-60s output.
I was left with Nick Lowe as the one musician whose mature works really threaten to put his beloved earlier works to shame. Do you see what I’m getting at? Have you faced this question with a longtime beloved artist?