The Wilderness Years

Nick Lowe

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The Wilderness Years Review

by Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Between the disbanding of Brinsley Schwarz in 1974 and the formation of Rockpile in 1977, Nick Lowe recorded a lot, attempting to settle on a sound. Simultaneously, he became the house producer at Stiff Records, where he became notorious for his raw, quickly produced records. That attitude shines through on The Wilderness Years, a compilation of singles, outtakes, covers, rarities, and demos Lowe recorded during those years. With the exception of Pure Pop/Jesus of Cool, no other record captures Lowe's sense of humor or love of pop music quite as well. Divided equally between gems and glorious throwaways, The Wilderness Years is all over the place, but that's its charm. It has the notorious songs Lowe wrote to break his contract with United Artists ("Bay City Rollers We Love You," "Let's Go to the Disco," "Rollers Show"), both sides of his first Stiff single ("So It Goes," "Heart of the City"), his "erstwhile Stiff advertising jingle" "I Love My Label," terrific covers of "Halfway to Paradise" and Sandy Posey's "Born a Woman," plus forgotten gems like the demo for "Endless Sleep" and "Heart," "Fool Too Long" (which was written for Dr. Feelgood), and "I Got a Job," a song Nick claims he doesn't remember writing or recording. In fact, Nick doesn't think much of any of this material, but an artist isn't always the best judge of his own work -- he rarely got any better than he did here.

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