Monday, March 24, 2008

"Without Love" / Nick Lowe


Yes, indeed, it's that time of year again -- Nick Lowe Week, when I celebrate the birthday of my favorite aging British rocker with a full week of blog posts. I know, I seem to pay tribute to Nick every other week on here -- but to paraphrase Lesley Gore, it's my blog, and I'll gush if I want to.

When people complain that Nick's gone too country in his old age, I wonder -- were they actually listening all those years? This song's from 1979's Labour of Lust (why this brilliant album is out of print, I just can't fathom) and it's as country as they come, a twangy upbeat number with a nifty rockabilly guitar solo in the middle.

Yet the theme is the Number One Pop Theme of All Time -- romantic love. In fact, Nick takes this to the nth degree; this isn't even a song about a girl, but a song about love itself. "Without love," Nick declares, "I am half human / Without love, I'm a machine / Without love, there's nothing doing / I am dying without love." That's just about as pure a statement of generalized lust as you'll ever hear. But the twang gives Nick plenty of room to wink (and he throws in vocal slides and hiccups to underscore the point) . Ironic understatement is more often Nick's line of attack; not here -- he goes full-tilt into Opry-style emotional extravagance.

My favorite line, though, is one I can't imagine being written in Nashville: "Without love, I am an island / All by myself in a heartbreak sea." John Donne reference and all; that's damn deft. And then there's the bridge: "Now there is nowhere I can run / And there is no hiding place / Stickin' out like a sore thumb / By the gloomy look upon my face." Bit by bit, he nudges this song into his own inimitable self-pitying loser mode, until I'm thinking, Aw, poor guy, such an incurable romantic, it would be a shame to leave him all alone... And that dogged brisk rockabilly tempo -- it's like he's on a relentless treadmill he can't get off. Oh, yes, he's dyin' without love. Maybe there's something I could do to help...

No doubt this is one of the songs Nick's thinking of when he says that he can't perform his earlier material anymore. He can't get away with playing the jumpy obsessed adolescent these days. But there really isn't such a distance between this and "Has She Got A Friend?" or "I'm A Mess," is there? It's all good, Nick.

Without Love sample


Uncle E said...

Yeah, Nick Lowe Week on Holly's blog! I will be tuning in daily.
I sure hope they will give Labour the full reissue treatment soon. I must have that album but have been unable to locate it.

Franko6677 said...

So my rip of the vinyl copy I found turned out FANTASTIC! And to think I got it for 50 cents.

"Without Love" is indeed a great song, but my favorite from the album (apart from CTBK) is "American Squirm," which I understand was not on the UK edition.

ilesofsmiles said...

I love the the sound... HooolyHooooo..

you're not a "Grumpy Old Bugger!"

Smiley :D

Mark said...

Nick Lowe week, yay! Personally, I think Nick Lowe week should be a national holiday, so everyone can hole up with their Nick records and study the art of a master.

Great post about a great song!

Carabella said...

One of my theme songs. Love comes and goes (People Change)but being a lover in this cold world alone is tuff. I've been there.