Los Straitjackets test their Tennessee twang on a set of Nick Lowe songs. Nick Bollinger discusses.
Los Straitjackets are originally from Nashville, and are known for performing in personalised wrestling masks. For the past 25 years or so they have been purveying their brand of instrumental pop, in a tradition that began in the pre-Beatle era with groups like The Ventures and The Shadows – bands without vocalists who delivered melodies on clean, twangy guitar strings.
The latest album by Los Straitjackets, their fourteenth, is entirely made up of tunes by veteran British songwriter Nick Lowe.
Lowe wrote his best-known song ‘What’s So Funny About Peace Love and Understanding’ with his tongue in his cheek, back in the 70s when the idealism of the hippie 60s was starting to lose its shine. But it has outlasted its time and place, and as more and more people have covered the song over the years – from Elvis Costello to Curtis Stigers, whose version on The Bodyguard soundtrack sold in the millions – the irony has fallen away. Los Straitjackets’ version, even without Lowe’s lyric, seems to say something wistfully about the song’s universal question.
Lowe is a clever lyricist, for which he has had plenty of attention, but one thing this record makes plain is that, even stripped of their lyrics, his songs remain quirky, distinctive, determinedly song-like.
Lowe’s deceptively simple melodies and obvious love of old American rock and pop forms make him a perfect subject for a Los Straitjackets tribute. Guitarists Danny Amis and Eddie Angel take Lowe’s original vocal lines and transpose them to their fretboards with twang and whammy.
Of course there’s nothing groundbreaking or essential about this album. Still, if you’ve got a soft spot for either surf music or the songs of Nick Lowe, you’re bound to find something here to enjoy. As a fan of both, it works for me.
What’s So Funny About Peace, Love & Los Straitjackets is available on Yep Roc