March 4th, 2008
11:01 AM ET

They called it pop

In all the attention given to the 25th anniversary of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” the anniversary of another great pop album is being overlooked.

Nick Lowe

Nick Lowe's "Jesus of Cool" is just out in a 30th-anniversary edition.

I refer, of course, to Nick Lowe’s “Jesus of Cool” - originally titled “Pure Pop for Now People” in the United States - which was recently released in a 30th-anniversary edition that combines the slightly differing track lists of both versions with a number of extra songs.

Many people prefer the original UK title, but for me “Pure Pop for Now People” sums up the album - and the ever-witty Lowe - far more appropriately. In 1978 what the Basher was doing was both old and new: hearkening back to classic ‘60s arrangements and styles (“Tonight’s” melting romance, “Heart of the City’s” raw power) with late-‘70s irony (who else would write a song about the unfortunate death of a silent film star that included the line, “She was a winner/Who became a doggie’s dinner/She never meant that much to me”?).

Lowe, as Entertainment Weekly points out in its review, has been perennially underrated. The man helped lay the groundwork for punk and New Wave with his pub-rock band, Brinsley Schwarz (their history is given a wink in the song “They Called It Rock”) and was Stiff Records’ staff producer, working on records by Elvis Costello, the Damned and Wreckless Eric. On his own, he’s created a number of classic albums, always leavened by melodic wit and more recently by a great deal of soul.

I’ll be the first to admit my biases: along with Ray Davies, Nick Lowe is my musical hero. But I hope my own predispositions don’t steer you away from a terrific album. Lowe loves a lot of things - “I Love My Label” and “(I Love the Sound of) Breaking Glass” are two of the songs on “Cool” - but what he really loves is pure pop music. You can hear the joy all the way through “Jesus of Cool.”

- Entertainment Producer Todd Leopold

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