Last week Nick Lowe came out with a new album called That Old Magic, and it’s really good. I’ve been a fan of Lowe since his first solo album, which was released in Britain as Jesus of Cool but was retitled for the American market as Pure Pop for Now People. This was 1978, and as a college student who aspired to be cool, I found Lowe’s music just the ticket. It was melodic, clever, ironic, and poppy. One song on Pure Pop is called “I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass,” while another is about a woman eaten by her dachshund. Lowe also wrote “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding,” and produced several Elvis Costello albums. As an iconoclast, Nick Lowe knew how to have fun.
In more recent years, beginning with his 1994 album, The Impossible Bird, Lowe has been writing and singing songs that evoke Buddy Holly, Frank Sinatra, and his former father-in-law, Johnny Cash. This is Lowe in a more reflective, wistful, even soulful mode. More lounge crooner than New Wave rocker—and a good deal older (he is now 62)—this Nick Lowe is still completely immersed in pop music. It’s just that the vantage point and emotional perspective have shifted. Like his previous four albums, That Old Magic is filled with longing and tinged with the blues, including an awareness of what it means to grow old as a pop singer.
You can read about That Old Magic and Lowe’s career in this New York Times piece, or listen to Terry Gross’ interview of him, which aired this past week on NPR and features an in-studio performance with Lowe covering several songs.
And on the subject of old pop music cycling into the new, you don’t want to miss Gay Talese writing in The New Yorker on Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga. Pure pop traveling across the generations, sped by desire. (Unfortunately, if you don’t subscribe to the magazine, you won’t have full access to Talese’s article.)