Don’t come into this looking for a Rockpile-esque post-punk rocker’s snide commentary on the whirring engine of Yuletide commerce. Instead, across an album of new originals and off-beat oldies, Nick Lowe casts a wry eye on things.
Quality Street (due from Yep Roc/Proper Records on October 29, 2013) finds different ways, in the best modern Lowe tradition, of thinking about something we’ve all grown restlessly bored with analyzing. So much has already been said about what works, and what doesn’t, when it comes to this yearly bacchanal of endless sales pitches, half-dreaded family reunions, goofball sweaters, increasingly elaborate decorations, half-watched football, shamefully lavish spreads and — oh, yeah — something or another about our Lord and savior. Yet Lowe makes it all brand new.
Imagine, if you will, if that inevitable plane ride back home included a chance meeting with Lowe in line for the TSA screening. You just know he’d have some witty aside — and he does, on “Christmas at the Airport.” Imagine, then, that you ended up next to Jesus on the flight. Lowe does that, too, on the charming “I Was Born in Bethlehem,” which finds Him garrulously retelling that familiar nativity narrative. Both are wrapped in an ageless, retro-lounge wrapping paper that feels at once kitschy but also in keeping with the season’s more obvious, and often guiltily loved excesses — not to mention with the other cover songs featured on Quality Street.
Lowe, for instance, takes a rockabilly spin through the spiritual “Children Go Where I Send Thee,” adds a splash of swamp-pop soul to “Silent Night,” and then garlands Wizzard’s “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day” with a ska attitude. Ron Sexsmith’s new original “Hooves on the Roof” sounds like a lost hipster gem from Lambert Hendricks and Ross. Elsewhere, Ry Cooder co-wrote the original “A Dollar Short of Happy,” which offers a deft twist on “The Christmas Song.”