At My Age
n my life, I’ve done things I’m not proud of,” croons a weary-sounding Nick Lowe on “A Better Man” to open his first album since 2001’s The Convincer. To the contrary, however, Lowe has done much to be proud of over the course of his long and storied career, precious little of which receives the proper level of credit. After all, this is a man who helped launch the careers of some of the most important musical voices of the punk and post-punk eras and played a significant starring role in the so-called New Wave that followed. Hell, he even married Johnny Cash’s daughter. Nothing to be ashamed of at all, Nick.
No, at his age, Lowe doesn’t need to do any apologizing. At My Age shows an artist about as far from the washed-up loser he plays on the opener as possible. Ever thought that the Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, et al, should just make records that sound more like their age and grow old with some class? Apparently Lowe has learned from their missteps, and the results are a gently polished masterpiece. What’s so funny ‘bout peace, love, and Floyd Cramer?
At My Age continues in the style Lowe started on 1994’s The Impossible Bird: acoustic-based, twanging, loose, and comfortable songs that tell familiar sad-sack tales of recovery, heartache, loss, love, and lust. The sound is like an updated ‘50s Western swing, equal parts Nashville and Memphis country, rhythm, and blues, with a dash of London pop thrown in for good measure. The tunes are short, simple, straightforward, and intimate. Turn the lights down and it sounds like Lowe has pulled up the comfiest chair in the room to entertain a few close friends (Chrissie Hynde even drops by and sings some loose harmony). Horns simmer rather than blast, organs pulse rather than pump. This isn’t a record to get you jumping around the room, but rather, one to slowly sip a single malt scotch to, cuddled up with a warm partner under dim lighting.
Lowe’s songwriting hasn’t gotten soft either. At My Age is full of clever rhymes and gentle melodies that bore their way into your brain through stealth rather than force. He paints portraits of older, wiser dogs and their new (and old but effective) tricks. No belly laughs, but plenty of wry smiles abound; listen to “I Trained Her to Love Me” and just try not to crack a grin.
The whole thing effortlessly glides by in less than 34 minutes, another throwback move to the era when LPs didn’t have to last 60 minutes to be satisfying. Nick Lowe has learned life’s lessons and now he just wants to play us some good time music and tell us all about it, like some sweet old uncle whose stories you just can’t get enough of. There isn’t any sort of urgency to Lowe’s message, and it suits him and the listener quite well, thanks. At his age, he doesn’t need to be in a hurry. Leave that to the young and the ignorant.