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Thursday, June 08, 2017

What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Los Straitjackets

I've been a fan of Los Straitjackets for over twenty years now, since I discovered them as an opening act at Maxwell's in Hoboken. They play surf rock, with the added gimmick of wearing Mexican wrestling masks, but their sound has evolved to include almost everything but the kitchen sink. They once covered "My Heart Will Go On," from Titanic.

For their latest album, What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Los Straitjackets, all the songs are written by Nick Lowe, who is a perfect choice. Lowe has been around a long time and is a kind of rock musician's musician, never particularly a huge star but you've heard his stuff anyway. The title of the album refers to "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding," which Lowe wrote and Elvis Costello turned into a hit. Part of a band called Rockpile and a solo artist, Lowe once released an album called The Jesus of Cool.

Now a 68-year-old man with snowy white hair, Lowe is still writing and touring. Some of the songs on this record are very familiar. That title track is performed as kind of a bossa nova, while "Cruel to Be Kind" is arranged as a slow song, the kind that would end the prom. Some songs are right in Los Straitjacket's wheelhouse, such as "Shake and Pop" and "I Live on the Battlefield"--straight ahead rock and roll.

I imagine every Lowe fan will claim to miss a few of his songs. I wish there had been a version of "I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock and Roll)," "I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass," or my particular Rockpile favorite, "Teacher, Teacher." But Lowe's catalogue is too bad for just one album.

As usual, the musicianship on the album is superb, with long-time guitarists Danny Amis and Eddie Angel leading the way. If you're a Nick Lowe fan and don't know this band, fear not, they have done the maestro well. And if you're Los Straitjackets fans, this is another classic to enjoy, especially with the top down.

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