Rockpile - Seconds of Pleasure
or better or worse, we here at Stylus, in all of our autocratic consumer-crit greed, are slaves to timeliness. A record over six months old is often discarded, deemed too old for publication, a relic in the internet age. That's why each week at Stylus, one writer takes a look at an album with the benefit of time. Whether it has been unjustly ignored, unfairly lauded, or misunderstood in some fundamental way, we aim with On Second Thought to provide a fresh look at albums that need it.
This record makes me feel old.
But that’s not a bad thing. In fact, I venture to say that I am not only not alone in that sentiment, but that a certain segment of people felt that way about it upon its initial 1980 release. Steeped in classic rock traditionalism—and by “classic rock” I mean Chuck Berry, the Everly Brothers, and Elvis, not Led Zep and Pink Floyd—Seconds Of Pleasure was unabashedly out of step. And was all the better for it.
The four musicians that made up Rockpile—defacto leaders Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds, plus guitarist Billy Bremner and drummer Terry Williams—had provided the rock-solid backing on both Lowe’s and Edmunds’ solo records of the time, and they were tight as a snare by the time this album was recorded, but this remains the only album under the group’s proper name. As pointed out in Andy Schwartz’s notes in the new Columbia/Legacy reissue of the album: “Most debut albums are supported by intensive touring, leading eventually to a follow-up release. This debut album, the culmination of years of touring and recording, was a last hurrah, as Rockpile disbanded within a year.”
Musically speaking, there is nothing terribly complicated here. The most sophisticated pop moment is probably “Wrong Again (Let’s Face It),” penned by Difford and Tillbrook, Squeeze’s own Lennon and McCartney. The rest is romping rockers like Lowe’s self-explanatory “Play That Fast Thing (One More Time)” or the sad-sack groovers like “When I Write The Book,” as well as some choice covers, including Chuck Berry’s “Oh What A Thrill” and Joe Tex’s “If Sugar Was As Sweet As You.” The original LP even included a bonus 7” EP of four Everly’s covers (thankfully reproduced as bonus tracks on the CD, along with a trio of steaming live tracks). Heard next to the studio material, the Rockpile picture becomes that much clearer. Listening to Lowe and Edmunds effortlessly deliver “Crying In The Rain” or rock through “Poor Jenny” sends a clear message: this is the music that they’ve always loved and always will. Why try to change what was perfect the first time? It isn’t an homage or a piss-take. It is a valentine, pure and simple.
Seconds Of Pleasure is the sound of pure rock ‘n’ roll joy, humor, and energy; a fading black and white photograph of a simpler time that perhaps already didn’t exist when the band recorded it, both for them personally and for the rest of the musical world—after all, this was the dawn of new wave and post punk. While most bands only look back as far as the Beatles these days, Rockpile bring us back to the original blueprint—blues-based rock and roll played fast and loose and loud. Some might say that what the world needs now is love, sweet love. Personally, I say what the world needs now is a pile of rocks.