By: Dennis Cook
There's not a lot of perfect albums, but Jesus of Cool (Yep Roc) is one of them. Every element – songwriting, production, performances, arrangements – is spot on, and this 30th Anniversary Edition just ups the ante on what was already a mighty good thing.
When Jesus first surfaced in 1978 it was Nick Lowe's solo debut but he was already a hardened veteran of Britain's pub rock scene, which birthed Ace, fueled The Faces and had no small love for Lowe's own band, Brinsley Schwarz. Heralded as England's answer to The Band even before their first album dropped, the Brinsleys never lived up to that boast but did influence folks like Elvis Costello and Paul Weller. So, Lowe was hip to the sleazy machinations of the music business when he set out on his own, and boy howdy does Jesus of Cool ooze some splendid bile for the wax factory. He leads off with "Music For Money" and eventually announces on the deliriously catchy "Shake and Pop," that "They cut another record / It never was a hit / Someone in the newspaper said it was shit." While it would be a few years until Costello sang about wanting to bite the hand that fed him, he may well have gotten the idea from Lowe.
Parts recall early suited Beatles ("Tonight"), others are the essence of power-pop, every Cheap Trick in the book AND they all work ("So It Goes," "I Love The Sound of Breaking Glass"). He even out E.L.O's Jeff Lynne ("Nutted By Reality") and shows his pub fans that he's still a rock around the clock bloke (live closer "Heart of the City"). But, it's not all nostalgia, and it's a little freakish how contemporary some of this sounds. "No Reason" is a blueprint for the Caucasian island shuffle of Sublime and Jack Johnson. "36 Inches High" could be Modest Mouse on a good day, all angst-y mope, whirling melody and weird changes with a whistling keyboard sting. And there's the matter of "Marie Provost," a bizarre remembrance of the silent film star built around the chorus, "She was a winner/ That became a doggie's dinner/ She never meant that much to me/ But now I see, oh poor Marie." The story of an old, bitter woman devoured by her dachshund in a hotel room after passing away alone isn't exactly first tier pop subject matter but Lowe makes it work well enough to inspire sing-a-longs.
This 30th edition deluxes things up with a sexy photo and essay filled booklet and 10 juicy bonus cuts including further label/industry blows ("I Love My Label"), silly but irresistible '50s style gems ("They Called It Rock," "Shake That Rat"), tearful blues-folk ("Endless Sleep"), a truly strange but seemingly sincere ode to Scotland's Bay City Rollers ("Rollers Show"), the studio version of "Heart of the City," the original version of "Cruel To Be Kind" - yeah, he wrote that and ""(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding," too – and a pissed off feminist screed ("Born A Woman") that rivals John Lennon's "Woman Is The Nigger of the World." It's hard to make perfect things better but Yep Roc may have managed it with this reissue, which serves those long ago touched by Jesus well and offers a fab introduction to one of the greatest rock artists of the past 50 years to the uninitiated.
JamBase | U.K.
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