What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Los Straitjackets
Yep Roc Records
Los Straitjackets (originally The Straitjackets in the 80s, but after a bust-up they’ve been at it as Los Straitjackets for over 20 years now) is back with another set of surf-pop-meets-rockabilly instrumentals. The catch, this time, the album’s title being a clue, is that all of these songs are from the pen of Nick Lowe; a tribute then – and a slightly odd one; instrumental covers of tunes by a songwriter known for his words more so than for the music. Well, of course Lowe writes wonderful melodies, his fans know that already but it’s certainly clear here on this lively, sun-kissed set of surf’n’frolic fiesta-vibes – so much so it’s got me thinking that the true test of a great song might be to see if it can stand up as an instrumental.
And there’s a connection beyond that – the two acts are on the same label; Los Straitjackets have even supported Lowe on tour. So not that odd then.
It’s not just the big hits that get covered too – though you’ll look forward to hearing the subtle sway of this version of What’s So Funny ‘Bout Peace, Love And Understanding? There are a few of Lowe’s more recent songs, such as Lately I’ve Let Things Slide, it’s got a Shadows-sheen and a bit of a Beatles-y bite. You Inspire Me sounds like some of Brian Wilson’s instrumental pieces and when we get to What’s So Funny it’s almost Los Lobos unplugged.
These versions work – and if you’ve not heard the originals they could be a guide, a way in – funny how this album could be approached from either end, Lowe fans curious to hear the instrumental treatments, or Straitjackets followers suddenly turned onto on of pop’s genius songsmiths.
Either way I’m happy – I’ve liked Lowe and Straitjackets across the year, never thought there’d be an album like this (I’m sure no one outside of the two sets of artists did) but it’s a small and lovely triumph, just quirky enough to make you want to take note, but earnest, sincere – nothing ridiculous in the treatments nor the way it’s all been measured. It’s a classy wee set of easy-listening gems. Odd and charming in equal measures then.