Nick Lowe is quoted as saying his greatest fear is “sticking with what you did when you were famous”. “I didn’t want to become one of those thinning-haired, jowly old geezers who still does the same shtick they did when they were young, slim and beautiful,” . “That’s revolting and rather tragic.” Well said that man. I still enjoy listening to the music of my youth and I hope that can appreciate it’s energy and innovation without getting trapped in a nostalgic web. As I get older ( boy, how did that happen, and so quickly ?) I want to hear artists produce interesting and mature music that is as mature and as interesting as I am (yeah, you heard).
There will always be a place for a gang of 17 year olds who have nicked their grandparents’ Stooges LPs but I’ve heard that before. There will always be music that is popular despite seeming trite and cliched. There was a lot of that in the 60s too, always has been. I just find it satisfying when musicians/composers address issues of concern to aging baby boomers in an original and entertaining way. I am way past having the world explained to me by someone who happens to know a few chords on the guitar. I do still want to be entertained by popular music as I always have been.
Nick Lowe has knocked about a bit in the music business. I understand that the inclusion of one of his tunes in the movie “The Bodyguard” realised a large royalty cheque as the LP became the biggest selling soundtrack of ever. No pressure then as Nick has released three LPs in the 21st century of relaxed, cynical but playful acoustic tunes. Some are self-depreciative, “I’m A Mess”, “Lately I’ve Let Things Slide”, others a little twisted, “I Trained Her To Love Me”. Most are about a man of a certain age trying to make sense of just how it came to this. On his LP of last year “The Old Magic” there are songs about death, “Checkout Time”, about being alone ,”I Read A Lot” and this lovely plea for just a little bit of understanding.
The video features Marc Maron, Maria Thayer and a great supporting cast. It is very funny. Over the years there have been contemporaries of Nick who have made music I have found more interesting. That has changed. Nick Lowe is writing songs for men who have lived a bit. Maybe he has got better or the others have got worse. Whatever… I think that “don’t freeze me baby, I’m no dinky-doo. I’m a sensitive man” is a writer at the top of his game.
John Cale has been involved in some of the best music I have ever heard. Hell yes the Velvet Underground, the Stooges and Patti Smith. Let’s throw in Eno, Nick Drake and Shrek. If I am ever exiled to a desert island I will insist that I take his LP “Paris 1919” along. His solo LPs have always been, at least, interesting and provocative. I am always going to have time for new music by Mr Cale. He has a new LP with the rather clunky title “Shifty Adventures In Nooky Wood”. I am enjoying what I am hearing. There are a lot of different sounds but Cale’s rich baritone voice of experience provides a continuity which will bring me back to this new work. John Cale gets to play his music with orchestras now. He is currently on tour with a band and is rocking out to Nooky Wood and a couple of older tunes including last year’s poptastic “Catastrofuk”
Well OK…Here’s a couple of old men from Pennsylvania who’s combined output in the past 20 years has barely registered around my house. They are playing a polished version of a 40 year old song. There is, I confess, a smidgeon of nostalgia and a soupcon of “Dad Rock” about this but hold on there muskrat, hear me out a moment. “Sometimes I Don’t Know What To Feel” is one of the great songs Todd Rundgren recorded on four LPs between 1970 and 1973. The world was buying shedloads of records by introspective boys and girls. Todd’s McCartneyesque, even baroque, ballads did not make the same connection but these songs have stood the test of time. I showed this to a friend this weekend. He listened and, after a minute, said “Todd is God”.
What I’m seeing and hearing here is a lot of respect. These two guys share a very similar musical background at Daryl’s house Todd is being given a chance to play one of his songs properly with a good band. He knows this, the song has not been given props like this for 30 years, and he rises to the occasion. For me, hearing such a good song played so well is what passes for entertainment in the early 21st century. I am not gonna rant about the pillage of rock’s back catalogue for cheap nostalgic cabaret. Similarly a musicologist’s worthiness is often unnecessary. Rock and roll is all played out. Do we really expect to hear something new which will enter the pantheon we can now access at the push of a button ? Simply good songs played well is enough to make me happy.