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'Love Starvation/Trombone' And 'Transience' Speak To Past Sans Nostalgia


This is FRESH AIR. Nick Lowe and Eric Goulden were both part of the first wave of British punk rock in the 1970s. Goulden performed under the name Wreckless Eric, and Lowe produced Eric's best-known song, "Whole Wide World," in 1977. Now both men have new, separate recordings. Lowe has a four-song EP he's cut with the band Los Straitjackets. It's called "Love Starvation/Trombone." Wreckless Eric's new album is called "Transience." Rock critic Ken Tucker reviews both.


NICK LOWE: (Singing) I woke up early with love starvation, hugging my pillow all alone in a rickety bed. Baby, if it's any consolation, the needle's in the red. It only hit me when I went by a mirror. That's when I saw what was written all over my face. I'm suffering love starvation, a very bad case.

KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: At age 70, Nick Lowe still makes awfully spry music. It helps, he knows, to hook up with new collaborators who are, if not young themselves, at least younger - Los Straitjackets, the Nashville-based instrumental outfit with whom Lowe has now recorded two EPs. The song that started this review is a new Nick Lowe tune called "Love Starvation." Lowe also has a music nerd's appreciation for obscure oldies, like his cover of a song produced by Phil Spector in 1961 for the singer Sammy Turner. This is Nick Lowe and Los Straitjackets' beautiful version of "Raincoat In The River."


LOWE: (Singing) I'm gonna throw my raincoat in the river, gonna toss my umbrella in the sea. The sun's gonna shine like never before. It ain't gonna rain on me no more because my baby's coming back to me. Hey, can't you see my raincoat in the river sinking down ever further out of sight? For each drop of rain that fell on my face, I know we'll share a sweet embrace because she'll be back in my arms tonight. Well, the rain kept dripping...

BIANCULLI: As a bratty punk in the 1970s, Eric Goulden made his mark as Wreckless Eric with the great single "Whole Wide World." Now in his 60s, Eric is looking back on his youth, specifically as the son of his father. Like a lot of mature men, Eric now sees the virtues of the parent he used to rebel against, recognizing similarities and acknowledging the debts we owe our dads.


WRECKLESS ERIC: (Singing) My dad worked in a factory. I tried it too, but I couldn’t do with the tedium of the everyday. I flunked out, I'm not ashamed to say. While he was steady, I was a flake. I lived my life from scrape to scrape. Now I’m older, I’m a lot like him - history coming back again. I’ve got this name and it doesn’t fit. I don’t know what I can do about it. They say the child is the father to the man. I’ll just do what I can.

TUCKER: This album "Transience" contains eight songs, and among those backing him up is Amy Rigby, to whom he is married and who made one of 2018's best albums, "The Old Guys," which was produced by Eric. Like Nick Lowe, Eric has always favored music that sounds bashed out quickly. The idea is to be artful about seeming artless. You can hear this aesthetic at work on a lurching, clattering song such as "Strange Locomotion."


WRECKLESS ERIC: (Singing) Strange locomotion over the ocean. We can find a better place. Strange locomotion. If you got the notion, get on over the ocean. Take yourself a big, fat plane. Get some strange locomotion. Up and down, off the ground. Strange, strange, strange locomotion. Up and down, way off the ground. Strange, strange, strange locomotion.

TUCKER: The achievement for both Nick Lowe and Wreckless Eric is to have made new music that connects to old music without maudlin nostalgia or huffy defensiveness. These are men comfortable with the old guys they've become, refusing to let age dim their passion for the music that means the most to them. In other words, they rock.

BIANCULLI: Rock critic Ken Tucker reviewed new recordings by Nick Lowe and Wreckless Eric. On tomorrow's show, helping your kids survive and thrive in their college years. We talk with psychologist B. Janet Hibbs and psychiatrist Anthony Rostain about the challenges of parenting one of the most stressed-out generations of teens. Hibbs helped her son navigate his way through severe depression and anxiety. Their book is called "The Stressed Years Of Their Lives." Hope you can join us.


BIANCULLI: FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our technical director and engineer is Audrey Bentham. Our associate producer of digital media is Molly Seavy-Nesper. Roberta Shorrock directs the show. Have a great Memorial Day. For Terry Gross, I'm David Bianculli.

(SOUNDBITE OF MICHAEL DAVIS'S "GIANT") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ken Tucker reviews rock, country, hip-hop and pop music for Fresh Air. He is a cultural critic who has been the editor-at-large at Entertainment Weekly, and a film critic for New York Magazine. His work has won two National Magazine Awards and two ASCAP-Deems Taylor Awards. He has written book reviews for The New York Times Book Review and other publications.