Nick Lowe, Jesus Of Cool (1978)

Nick Lowe's 1978 solo debut has no right to be this great.  Jesus of Cool (renamed Pure Pop for Now People in the US because we're idiots) was a non-stop barrage of catchy and inventive pop music (ok, the US title actually works, but still...), ranging from retro 50s stylings to power pop to new wave.  Pretty much everything here works brilliantly, literally never a dull moment.

It's a bit of an anomaly in Lowe's discography. His prior work with pub rockers Brinsley Schwarz was good, sometimes great (I'm a huge fan of their self-titled 1970 debut, which sounded more like the Grateful Dead and CSN than the more R&B-influenced music of later albums); and his subsequent solo albums were all over the place, from pop to rockabilly to Americana to soul, again invariably good and often great.  But Jesus of Cool is just so damn infectious and varied, it's like he saved up every hook in his head and laid it all out right here.

"So It Goes" is as great a power-pop/proto-new-wave single as there's ever been, clever and punchy and utterly original; "I Love The Sound of Breaking Glass" puts a sophisticated pop veneer over a Bo Diddley beat; "Marie Provost" somehow takes a grisly tale of a woman dying alone and becoming her doggies' dinner (those hungry little dachshunds!) and makes it charming; "No Reason" rocks an understated reggae/funk vibe; and the wonderful "Nutted By Reality" is a whacked out Jackson 5 revival that segues into a mid-tempo ska bop.  But, seriously, the whole thing is just a delight.

As this has been issued and reissued in so many iterations over the years, with different track sequencing and bonus tracks and inclusions and exclusions, it's hard for me to define what exactly constitutes the proper album.  At times this has included his double-sided single praising the Bay City Rollers, supposedly recorded as a way to get out of his record contract (though c'mon, "Rollers Show" is fantastic, whether taken earnestly or ironically).  Oddly, the original UK version and the version on Spotify opens with "Music For Money," probably the only song I don't like, so don't be scared off; my old US cassette more sensibly closed with this while wisely opening with "So It Goes."

Here's the original video for "So It Goes" (a different recording than that used on the album):
And here's "I Love The Sound of Breaking Glass":
...and because it's awesome, here is a recent live version of "Rollers Show," performed unplugged with Yo La Tengo: