Labour of Lust

As a songwriter and producer (Elvis Costello, the Pretenders), Nick Lowe helped turn U.K. punk into pop. This long-out-of-print 1979 set, a hookfest full of barbed wit, was his own pop moment. The hit was "Cruel to Be Kind," an Everly Brothers-meet-Stylistics defense of maso­chism. Less radio-friendly are "Big Kick, Plain Scrap," which repeats the phrase "on drugs" over tweaked New Orleans funk, and "American Squirm," which features Costello. It's not all catchy snark: The bonus B side "Basing Street" is a ballad involving spilled blood and a pill-popping DJ — a taste of the country-folk storytelling Lowe would master decades later.

Listen to "Cruel To Be Kind":

Gallery: Random Notes, Rock's Hottest Photos

From The Archives Issue 1127: March 31, 2011
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