Since the demise of England's Brinsley Schwarz nearly a decade ago, Nick Lowe has kept himself occupied with singing, songwriting and producing. He's produced Graham Parker and more recently, Elvis Costello. He has also formed his own band, Rockpile, which includes Dave Edmunds on guitar.
Pure Pop For Now People is the latest effort by the Rockpile enterprise and as the title suggests, is jam-packed with short, catchy melodies that are, to say the least, amusing, One has to laugh when hearing; "Gonna see the Rollers, got a ticket to the Bay City Rollers." The English counterpart to Pure Pop, Jesus of Cool, very aptly describes Lowe as he and Rockpile performed each song, running through each quickly, hurriedly. Edmunds was surely the highlight of the band's set, playing feverish guitar on a number called, "I Knew the Bride When She Used to Rock 'n' Roll," from his release of last year.
Lowe seems almost to have written these shallow, commercially oriented pieces for deliberate attack from Elvis, sort of like it was planned: Costello and The Attractions take the stage and bite hard the hand that feeds them.
"Radio, Radio" is an example. Its cynicism destroys radio and dwells on the manipulating aspects of the industry, "either shut up or get cut up, they don't wanna hear about it, it's only inches on the reel-to-reel, and the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools trying to anaesthetize the way that you feel." Therein lies his answer to Pure Pop For Now People. The same machine-gun energy that hits hard on his two albums, prevailed throughout his set. His stage appearance was one of detachment, yet it's what the music commands and right from "Mystery Dance" to "Watching the Detectives," the sweat engulfed him just as Shaboo was totally engulfed by him.
With each familiar number, "Red Shoes," "Hand in Hand, "Lip Service" and so on, came louder screams for those in the front to be seated so that everyone on the sides and in the back could witness the event. But the pleas were not heeded immediately and the moving performance of "Alison" was thus hindered by the chanting. One girl, standing in the very front, totally ignored the pleas and nothing, not even continuous bombardments of ice cubes could get her to retreat.
This was the entire scene throughout, leaving the walls as the finest and most accessible viewing place. His companions, the Attractions were as expected excellent, performing tightly. "This Year's Girl," the haunting, bitter statement of the Farrah Fawcett plastic doll image, contains, in itself, Elvis's aim and convictions; the world is too commercial and Elvis is fighting back with his hard-nosed sarcasm and cynicism.
He is not to be shrugged off as simply another new wave or punk product. His music is diverse and sophisticated, pleasing many tastes. His vengeance is captivating as his encore of "I'm Not Angry" proved. He screamed it at them and they screamed back even more vengeful than he.
He is being heralded as one of the most important artists to emerge in the seventies and there can be no argument against that at the moment. Like the song from his first album says, "Don't you think that I know that walking on the water won't make me a miracle man." Perhaps his music will.