Nick Lowe – Labour of Lust

Nick Lowe’s current resurgence as a sadder-but-wiser grown-up troubadour has finally put an end to the persistent wiseguy-pop-satirist image that’s followed him since his emergence as a solo artist in the late ’70s. But Yep Roc’s reissue of Lowe’s 1979 sophomore solo effort Labour of Lust offers a handy reminder that the seminal English auteur actually ditched the funny stuff early on, in favor of the more personal approach that makes this such a winner.

In addition to being one of the most enduring albums of the new wave boom, Labour of Lust was Lowe’s stateside commercial breakthrough, thanks to the flukey pop success of his first and only stateside hit single “Cruel to Be Kind.” Dispensing with the brilliantly executed genre parodies that dominated his solo debut Jesus of Cool (aka Pure Pop for Now People), Labour of Lust contains some of his smartest and snappiest songcraft, offering a deeply satisfying evocation of Lowe’s dual personae as rock ‘n’ roll traditionalist and pop subversive.

With typically no-nonsense backup from Rockpile (the sublime combo that Lowe shared with Dave Edmunds during this fertile period), the riches here include such playfully prickly gems as “American Squirm,” “Cracking Up,” “Born Fighter” and Lowe’s definitive reading of Mickey Jupp’s “Switchboard Susan,” all of which share a level of barbed emotional engagement that separates Lowe from the vast majority of his power-pop contemporaries. Elsewhere, the disarmingly unguarded “Without Love” and “You Make Me” dispense with irony to expose their creator as an unrepentant romantic; both gain added resonance in light of his recent work.

Yep Roc’s 13-track digipak reissue hybridizes Labour of Lust‘s original U.K. and U.S. editions, adding the bittersweet country ballad “Endless Grey Ribbon” (omitted from previous American editions) and the non-LP b-side “Basing Street.”

Nick Lowe
Labour of Lust
[Yep Roc]