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Nick Lowe
Dig My Mood,  Upstart Records CD 038, 1998, (37:11)

 Feeling Lowe

To the naked eye, Nick Lowe doesn’t have a whole lot in common musically with iconoclasts like Neil Young and David Bowie. But it appears as though he has just found a new way to bond with these two veterans at the next rock & roll hall of fame dinner, since Lowe is openly in the process of reinventing himself.

Of course, he’s not morphing between country and grunge like the schizophrenic Young has a propensity to do, nor is he having a Bowie-esque visual image makeover. Nonetheless, the modern Nick Lowe is truly a changed man.

Meet the newly serious, and seriously manic-depressive, Nick Lowe. Gone is the Lowe who used to toss off lines like "she was a winner, who became the doggie’s dinner." Gone also is the lyricist who could turn a song like "Switch Board Susan" into a fruitful labor of lust, or call an album "The Abominable Showman." That twisted troubadour of the bizarre has flown the coop (for now). So it goes.

Beginning with 1994’s "The Impossible Bird," which explored "The Beast In Me" and asked "Where’s My Everything?," Lowe came out fighting with his inner demons, and thus began his mournful meditation upon the woeful state of his broken heart.

This brings us to Lowe’s latest, "Dig My Mood," which is a thing only the truly brokenhearted could ever really dig. These days, Lowe is the traveling minstrel of gloom. Instead of playing the role of the Joker, he now presents himself as a card carrying member of the lonely heart’s club band, trying his best to make sense of the damage dealt by a losing hand in love.

The album’s centerpiece is simply called "What Lack of Love Has Done," and succinctly summarizes Lowe’s reluctant new calling. "When I get up in the spotlight/and my story has begun/I try to explain/what lack of love has done."

Lowe’s twangy guitar sounds have been replaced by sad accordions and weeping organs. Once he stood tall as the crowned Prince of Pub rock, but now all that’s left is a despondent Lowe, slouched upon his regular barstool at the pub, and burying his blues in song.

Digging Lowe’s new mood takes a little extra digging on the listener’s part; but although the earth is hard, the treasure’s fine. This artistic about-face is akin to watching the life of the party trade in his lampshade hat for a book of Joy Division lyrics. While these changes may be unexpected ones, this new low for Lowe is nevertheless still a highly recommended listening experience.– Dan MacIntosh

 Glenn Brooks says... I dig this  much more than Dan does, but that may because I am, um, of a certain age–or perhaps just, as Dan says, "truly brokenhearted." (Since I think I am quite happily married, it must be a genetic defect.) Nick has lost none of his lyric cleverness, but the gently melancholic (though not depressing!) songs cut more deeply than before. The best part is that Nick has found a groove between country and soul that maybe only an Englishman could discover. The songs remind me of Charlie Rich and Pops Staples in almost equal measure. I think this one’s a classic.

Copyright © 1998 Peppercorn Press. All rights reserved.