Long Player: Rockpile delivered guitar-driven treasures

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 1981.

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.




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