Nick Lowe Rocks Again With New Song ‘Went to a Party’: Listen

In his rollicking new single “Went to a Party,” Nick Lowe puts on a “bad suit,” starts “jigging” to the music, is mistaken for Robyn Hitchcock, and winds up staying until nearly 4 a.m., leaving only when the DJ starts playing something not to his taste. “I haven’t been to a party like that for quite a long time,” he chuckles. “But I used to go to them all the time.”

The subject may be old hat, but “Went to a Party” does plunge Lowe back into the kicky, witty pop that first set him apart from the new-wave crowd in the late Seventies, on albums like Jesus of Cool (or Pure Pop for Now People) and Labour of Lust. As heard on the contemplative albums he’s made since, Lowe hasn’t written too many songs in his former vein for a while. But he began revisiting the approach a decade ago, when he hooked up with Los Straitjackets, the longtime Nashville band known for both its indelibly retro sonics and the Mexican wrestling masks they wear onstage.

With audiences seemingly up for hearing Lowe and Los Straitjackets record something new together, Lowe began releasing a series of EPs, recorded in whatever city they were performing. “We wanted to do some original songs, and no one’s going to come see an act where four of the five people onstage are wearing wrestling masks and expect to hear deep, meaningful verses of existential angst,” Lowe says. “People who come to see our shows want to hear these punchy, short tunes. They only blossom after you’ve played these songs to an audience five or six times. That’s when they get cracking.”

Like some musicians of his generation, Lowe thought the album format was essentially extinct, along with rock & roll itself: “I don’t know if it sort of exists,” he says of his longtime genre. But with the vinyl comeback in mind, he was persuaded by people around him to pull together the EPs into a full album. With Los Straitjackets, he recut some of the songs on the EPs, tweaked others, and wrote three new songs, resulting in Indoor Safari (out Sept. 13), the first new album of Lowe originals in more than a dozen years.

The inclusion of pithy pop like “Went to a Party” isn’t the only old-school aspect of the album. As its credits announce, “This record must be played at 33 1/3 r.p.m. on equipment especially designed for stereophonic records incorporating a stereophonic pick-up and twin-channel amplifier feeding into two loudspeakers.” Lowe isn’t even sure he could create a modern, Jack Antonoff-style pop disc. “I really don’t know how you make records like that,” he says. “It might be that all I would have to do is turn up with my pre-Beatles pop songs and, presto, somebody will stick it in a computer and it will come sounding something like that. But I doubt it. That train has left the station.”

On tour with Los Straitjackets, Lowe always plays “Cruel to Be Kind,” his first (and only) major U.S. hit. Looking back on that moment, he remembers finding himself in usual but amusing situations. “It was pretty peculiar, but in a funny way,” he says. “You get your turn for a break, and that’s sort of what happened to me. It was my turn. And I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was really good fun. I was standing there with Dick Clark and sitting next to Johnny Carson. It was like, I’m hanging out with these people now.”

At the same time, he says he was reluctant to take that approach to the next industry-approved level, leading to the more adult-sounding records that followed. “I was always very aware that I didn’t want to really stay in that [pop] world: ‘Come on, we need another hit, income coming in,’” he says. “And when I started to feel that the public was getting sick of my shtick as a pop star, which I was too, I thought, ‘Right — now’s the time to duck out of this and think about what you’re going to do in the future.’ At that point, there weren’t any people in the business in the pop business in their 30s or 40s. You were completely over the hill if you were that old. But I thought I’d use the fact that I was getting older as an advantage and ride it out like that. It was quite a smart thing I did, which is hard to believe I figured it out.


Even though Indoor Safari finds Lowe returning to the early rock & roll he loves, no one should expect him to go full pop god again. “The thought of going onstage squeezing yourself into some sort of leather trousers, jumping around like you did when you were in your 20s — few things would be more unpleasant,” he says, but adds, jokingly, “I have the right to change my mind.”    

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