Nick Lowe

Quiet Please: The New Best of Nick Lowe

Rating: 4.5

Label: Yep Roc Records

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You’d be hard pressed to find an artist who has led a more fruitful and interesting life than Nick Lowe. From his origins in pub-rock pioneers Brinsley Schwarz to his acceptance as punk rock’s godfather, helming the mixing board for acts like The Damned, the Pretenders and Elvis Costello to his eventual marriage into the Carter-Cash dynasty, Lowe has lived enough for several people. Yet Lowe continues to be a relative unknown on these shores, even though many of his songs have been famously covered by some of the acts he’s produced or mentored.

In a way, Yep Roc is doing a community service by releasing the epic anthology Quiet Please. Quiet Please features nearly 50 tracks covering the bulk of Lowe’s career (his Brinsley Schwarz material is unfortunately limited to one track and his Rockpile supergroup is similarly limited in exposure here) and spread across two discs. This may seem like a ridiculous amount of material for an introduction to an artist, but Nick Lowe is an artist who has spread himself across so many genres and whose songs are so identifiable that to limit a retrospective to just one period of Lowe’s repertoire would be a disservice.

Quiet Please is expertly sequenced, tracing Lowe’s career from its start to where he is today, beginning with perhaps Lowe’s most recognizable and covered work, “(What’s So Funny ’bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding.” Even with its slightly primitive production values, the track has lost none of its impact or power, and remains one of the best examples of Lowe’s trademark acidic wit, making it all the more logical that Lowe’s apprentice Elvis Costello would later cover the song. If nothing else, the first disc proves why so many artists have covered Lowe’s song; namely, his unique ability to make each song its own little genre. “So It Goes” could be described as the template Thin Lizzy based their careers off, “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass” undoubtedly inspired more than a few punks to look towards integrating disco and R&B structures into their sloganeering, and the Americana-tinged “I Love on a Battlefield” was years ahead of the alt-country trend.

Unlike so many of his peers on the pub rock circuit and the punks he would later inspire, Lowe was always changing direction, never content to just rest on his laurels. The more contemporary tracks on Quiet Please’s second disc find Lowe exploring an amalgamation of late-period Johnny Cash style confessionals and Stax-era dirty soul. Witness the exasperated, guilt-laden tone of “Homewrecker,” featuring an organ line half-steeped in the teachings of Booker T. and an especially lonely funeral, complete with a vocal take that sounds like it came from beyond the grave. The song doesn’t necessarily craft something new, per se, but that has never been what Lowe has attempted to accomplish through his music. Instead, Lowe is an artist who looks towards the past as inspiration and uses its wisdom to build something fresh and invigorating but still comforting in its history. On “Indian Queens” Lowe recalls Buck Owens and the early Sun Records stable, while “Has She Got a Friend” has him outdoing the Sadies in his ability to reinvigorate early rock ‘n’ roll clichés.

While there are plenty of places to dive into the Nick Lowe catalog and plenty of best-ofs already around, Quiet Please is a rarity in the anthology world: a collection both easily digested and endlessly rewarding, more than a mere scratch on the surface of an iconic artist’s canon.

by Morgan Davis

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