In Rotation: Nick Lowe’s ‘Labour of Lust’


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From the opening sprigs of strummed guitar on “Cruel to Be Kind,” Nick Lowe’s “Labour of Lust” announces that it won’t slouch on warm and easy melodic hooks. Re-released last week with one bonus track, the 1979 record from Elvis Costello’s frequent early collaborator takes new wave’s amphetamine energy but smoothes out the jitters with a good pour of pub rock, the kind that conjures up images of blokes crashing together beer steins as they top one another with debauched tales.


The journeyman creation of “Labour of Lust” is the best outcome of a contractual snafu that had two members of the same band on different labels. To satisfy all interests, Lowe’s band Rockpile cut two albums at the same time, the other being guitarist Dave Edmunds’ “Repeat When Necessary.” While Edmunds’ solo output was a more traditional rock affair, the other spawn of the Rockpile graveyard shift held plenty of wonderfully wayward experiments. There’s the pleading jangle of “Without Love” (later covered by Johnny Cash) that sounds like a missing cut from the Byrds’ roots country classic, “Sweetheart of the Rodeo.” There’s “Dose of You,” a power pop meander ringing with sweet peals of clean guitar.

‘Switchboard Susan’ has too many overheated metaphors but such missteps are forgiven whenever “Cruel to Be Kind” launches its kick-drum rumble. Included at the insistence of a Columbia A&R man, “Cruel to Be Kind” went on to become Lowe’s only charting hit in the U.S. Sometimes The Man knows best.

—Margaret Wappler

‘Labour of Lust’
Nick Lowe
Yep Rock Records reissue