[Review] Nick Lowe: Labour of Lust (1979)

You’ll fall in love with Lowe all over again on his second album.

Kronomyth 2.0: Lowe’s Labour’s Lust.

For a brief time there, it seemed the future of pop music would rest on the shoulders of Nick Lowe. Not only was he producing some of England’s brightest stars (Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, The Damned) but he was also carving out his own career with two excellent albums: Jesus of Cool and, now, Labour of Lust. Infusing rock with elements of new wave and country music, Labour of Lust could pass for the second coming of Rubber Soul.

The album’s most famous song is Cruel to Be Kind, which may be the best thing he’s ever done. Right behind it are top-tier pop tunes (American Squirm, Dose of You, Skin Deep), credible country music (Without Love) and a love song for the ages (You Make Me). As with his first album, there isn’t a bad idea in the bunch.

On later albums, Nick Lowe didn’t seem to run out of ideas so much as run into other peoples’ ideas. The first two records, however, are highly original. You’ll hear nods to the work of David Bowie (Big Kick, Plain Scrap borrows bits of David Bowie’s “Breaking Glass”), Elvis Costello (“American Squirm” even features the Attractions) and, of course, Rockpile (Love So Fine, Born Fighter), but Lowe isn’t copying them so much as commenting on them.

I would tell you that any new wave collection is incomplete without Lowe’s first two records. If the quality and variety of the material don’t win you over, Lowe’s sense of humor and humility will. Of minor interest, there were again variations between the UK and US releases, with the former featuring “Endless Grey Ribbon” in place of “American Squirm.” The two versions were reconciled on the expanded reissues.

Original elpee version

A1. Cruel to Be Kind
A2. Cracking Up
A3. Big Kick, Plain Scrap
A4. Born Fighter
A5. You Make Me
A6. Skin Deep
B1. Switch Board Susan
B2. Grey Ribbon
B3. Without Love
B4. Dose of You
B5. Love So Fine

Original elpee version (Columbia)
A1. Cruel to Be Kind (Nick Lowe/Ian Gomm) (3:26)
A2. Cracking Up (2:57)
A3. Big Kick, Plain Scrap (2:27)
A4. American Squirm (2:29)
A5. You Make Me (1:49)
A6. Skin Deep (3:12)
B1. Switch Board Susan (Mickey Jupp) (3:46)
B2. Dose of You (3:18)
B3. Without Love (2:27)
B4. Born Fighter (3:07)
B5. Love So Fine (Nick Lowe/Rockpile) (3:52)

All songs written by Nick Lowe unless noted.

The Players

Nick Lowe (vocals, bass), Billy Bremner (lead & rhythm guitars, background vocals), Dave Edmunds (lead & rhythm guitars, background vocals), Terry Williams (drums) with Elvis Costello (background vocals on A4), Huey Lewis (harmonica on B4), Bruce Thomas (bass on A4), Pete Thomas (drums on A4). Produced by Nick Lowe; engineered by Roger Bechirian.

The Plastic

Released on elpee and cassette on June 9, 1979 in the UK and Australia (Radar, RAD/RAC 21), the US (Columbia, JC 36087), Germany (Radar, RAD-56676) and Japan (Radar, P-10724F) with picture innersleeve. Reached #43 on the UK charts and #31 on the US charts.

  1. Re-issued on cassette in the US (Columbia, PCT 36087).
  2. Re-issued on compact disc on August 11, 2000 in the UK (Demon, 620462).
  3. Re-released on expanded 180g vinyl elpee and colored vinyl elpee in 2011 in the US (Yep Roc, YEP-2621) and on expanded compact disc in 2011 in Europe (Proper, PRPCD077) with one bonus track.

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