Review : Nick Lowe - The Old Magic
PopmattersIt seems likely that every review that will crop up like bunny rabbits in print or on the Web of Nick Lowe’s latest and 13th album, The Old Magic, will include the opening line from the lead single “Checkout Time”: “I’m 61-years-old now / Lord, I never thought I’d see 30”. (For the record, Lowe is now 62.) Few, however, will probably include the lines that directly follow: “Though I know this road is still some way to go / I can’t help thinking on / Will I be beloved and celebrated for my masterly climb / Or just another bum when it comes to checkout time?” It’s a bit of a dark statement, that one of the post-punk icons from the late ‘70s is belly gazing as to whether his career has been a successful one. Long time fans, of course, will need no argument that Lowe is one of the seminal figures of British music. Starting out with the pub rock band Brinsley Schwarz, Lowe had a great career that envelopes production work with the likes of Elvis Costello, work with Dave Edmunds in the briefly lived Rockpile, and two utterly classic late ‘70s solo albums which are distillations of punk, country and rock influences: 1978’s Jesus of Cool (which was titled Pure Pop for Now People in the U.S. and had a slightly different running order) and 1979’s Labour of Lust. And listing those achievements would be only scratching the surface of the landmark career of “Basher”, so nicknamed for his ability to crank out songs in the recording studio.
However, if you only know Lowe’s work from that pivotal late ‘70s era—which might be a given for younger fans seeing that his long out-of-print albums from that time period have recently been lovingly reissued in recent years—The Old Magic might come across as a bucket of water thrown directly into your face. Gone is the bracing, rocking rhythms of yore, replaced by soft, wistful and utter laid-back slices of almost cosmopolitan ‘60s country. In fact, The Old Magic reminds me a lot of Willie Nelson’s 1978 album Stardust in that it presents what is essentially country or roots music as a backbone against an utterly soft shoe, almost geriatric pop approach. If the latter day records by Wilco could be characterized as “dad rock” as one reviewer at another Web site has famously done, The Old Magic comes across as “grandpa rock” in comparison. It’s clear that Lowe is trying to gracefully grow old, and, as he himself has said in a New York Daily News piece quoted in the always reliable and dependable Wikipedia, his greatest fear in recent years seems to be “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.” So The Old Magic is what it is—and you have to approach it on its own terms, ignoring the energetic and caustic songs written well before Lowe was 30 years old. I’ll be honest with you: I hated this approach when I first heard it. However, The Old Magic is an album that gradually creeps up on you, and has plenty of rewards for those who can take the now white-haired Lowe basically acting his age....full text
SpinIt's gratifying to see Nick Lowe, a critical darling who stood gawkily in the margins of '80s pop trends, striding effortlessly through his inimitable late career. These lightly swinging throwback grooves and torchy ballads brim with ruminations about love from a sly, sure-handed codger who's been around the block more than twice. Whether crystallized in dead-simple one-liners ("Checkout Time" opens by confessing, "I'm 61 years old now / Lord, I never thought that I'd see 30") or finely tooled metaphors ("I Read a Lot"), Lowe's sexagenarian years have real sparkle....full text
IndependentLike a fine wine, Nick Lowe continues to mature as a songwriter, at an age when others are withering on the vine.
The Old Magic is stuffed with the kind of retro-styled standards that will doubtless be mined by generations of Nashville crooners to come, performed here in unassuming arrangements that try not to get in the way of the songs. Opener "Stoplight Roses" is typical, a brilliant image of guilty reproach for some transgression "stoplight roses can't mend". "Sensitive Man" finds Lowe on the other side of that blame divide, while the genial swaggers of "Somebody Cares for Me" and "Restless Feeling" betoken more cheerful outlooks. Lowe's maturing as a vocalist, too: there's a distinct touch of Nat King Cole creeping into "I Read a Lot", one of a few songs here confronting the encroaching loneliness of age....full text
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