CD Review of Jesus of Cool by Nick Lowe
Recommended if you like
Yep Roc
Nick Lowe: Jesus of Cool

Reviewed by Jason Thompson


t long last! Here it is! Nick Lowe’s glorious debut solo album, out of print on CD for far too long! Previously, you either had to find the disc in a used shop (as this writer was fortunate to do) or be willing to shell out double, sometimes triple the price for a used copy online. This brings about the great debate over why so many great albums are often left to go out of print and/or take forever to be reissued on CD and/or are never reissued at all. With an album as seminal as Jesus of Cool, you’d think it’d be a no-brainer, but it took the 30th anniversary marker of the album to get it back out there. Hopefully, the same deluxe treatment will be applied to Lowe’s second album Labour of Lust, which commands even higher prices due to its scarcity on the CD format.

Anyway, here is Jesus of Cool (or, as American audiences originally knew it, Pure Pop for Now People) all dolled up in super sweet packaging, with 10 bonus tracks added. These tracks range from “Rollers Show” and “Heart of the City” (the latter a studio take of the song, with both tunes being featured on the American pressing of the original album) to an early demo of “Cruel to Be Kind” and “I Love My Label,” a song that’s as hilarious as the opening track, “Music for Money.” But that’s what lies at the heart of Jesus of Cool: fun, fun, fun. In the extensive liner notes, Lowe recalls that “In those days I wasn’t interested in creating serious art. I was much more interested in the mischief. I wanted to make music that was accessible…” Indeed, the album’s original 11 tracks are all instantly catchy tributes to all sorts of styles of music, be it pure power pop (“So It Goes”), New Wave (“I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass”), sweet, romantic bubblegum (“Tonight”), and the good old rockabilly that Lowe had been bashing out since his days with Brinsley Schwarz and would continue with Rockpile (“Heart of the City”). It’s an eclectic, fast bunch of funny and wildly accessible tunes. It’s a shame they don’t make ‘em like this anymore.

Fans will be happy to know that all four tracks from Lowe’s 1977 EP Bowi are included here (one of them, the hilariously infamous “Marie Provost,” was already part of the original Jesus of Cool album). Those who never got to hear “Shake That Rat,” “Born a Woman,” and “Endless Sleep,” you may now rejoice heartily. Indeed, Lowe was on quite a roll during the latter half of the ‘70s; it actually took a while to assemble what became Jesus of Cool, since a number of the album’s tracks had been cobbled together from singles and the like. Yet the whole package is cohesive and stands as one of the most brilliantly fun albums to come out of the Stiff Records camp. And if you put it alongside the Lowe-produced My Aim Is True by labelmate Elvis Costello, you have two of the best albums ever recorded, period.

For this reissue, Yep Roc has gone out of its way to create something the fans will really enjoy. The glossy digipak sleeve unfolds to feature all the original album art, as well as a collection of Lowe memorabilia and a hilarious shot of Lowe from the cover album sessions superimposed over a stained glass church window. The extensive booklet features great liner notes, track annotation, and even more hilarious photos featuring glimpses of original promo items for the album, singles taken from the album, and more. Soundwise, this reissue definitely sounds fuller than the Demon Records reissue from the ‘90s, but the original cheap production job that made the whole thing so endearing is still intact. It just doesn’t necessarily sound like the album’s being played from an A.M. radio. So that said, Jesus of Cool is a must-have for anyone who loves excellent power pop, or rock in general. It’s been a long time coming, and it’s great to finally have it receive the treatment worthy of its historical importance. Now if only we can keep it in print for a nice long while this time, maybe Nick’s other out-of-print gems will see the light of day.

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