In the age of the single download, Jeff Harford
rediscovers the album.
The brotherly relationship between fellow Rockpile
members Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds delivered up some of British
rock's most sublime guitar-driven power-pop treasures of the
late '70s before healthy competition drove the pair apart in
Lowe's Labour of Lust (1979) marked a high point in
the partnership, spawning US and UK Top 20 hit Cruel To Be
Kind and joining the dots between Brinsley Schwartz-era
pub rock, New Wave and early rock 'n' roll.
BBC documentary Born Fighters endearingly captures the
unique circumstances of the album's recording, when bass
player/vocalist Lowe, guitarist Edmunds and fellow Rockpile
bandmates Billy Bremner (guitar) and Terry Williams (drums)
gathered at Eden Studios in London to simultaneously record
Labour of Lust and Edmunds' own career highlight,
Repeat When Necessary.
As the band steps through the development and recording of
each track, the confidence and camaraderie born of countless
days touring together is as evident as the impressive
musicianship each member brings to the table.
Lowe mixes up his approach, presenting deliciously hook-laden
Everly Brothers-style pop songs one minute (Cruel To Be
Kind, Dose Of You, Skin Deep) and more
sinister sunglasses-at-night rockers the next (Cracking
Up, Big Kick Plain Scrap, Born Fighter).
In Without Love and Endless Grey Ribbon
(replaced on the US edition by the Elvis Costello and the
Attractions-backed American Squirm) we hear echoes of
Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers.
Never short of a witty couplet or a blokey reference to
everyday troubles, Lowe passes off his extraordinary capacity
for crafting perfectly formed songs as the work of a
tradesman but stripped down tracks You Make Me and
Basing Street (a bonus track on the 2011 reissue) give
us a glimpse of the more articulate singer-songwriter within.
Happily, Lowe is now enjoying a second life as a
much-venerated elder statesman of rock, peddlig more songs in
this vein and releasing top-flight albums.