Having backed up Nick Lowe on his "Quality Holiday Revue" tour, masked instrumental rockers Los Straitjackets understand the virtues of The Greatest Living Englishman's songbook better than the average person. And while most people discussing Lowe's work focus on the wit and wisdom of his lyrics, the man can write a superior melody, and Los Straitjackets offer eloquent proof on their 2017 album, What's So Funny About Peace, Love and Los Straitjackets. This set offers a baker's dozen tunes from Lowe's catalog, ranging from early rockers like "Shake & Pop" and "Heart of the City" to smoother, more contemplative recent numbers like "I Read a Lot" and "Checkout Time," all interpreted in Los Straitjackets' trademark twangy style, borrowing from decades of instrumental rock styles and with no vocals to get in the way. Some of these arrangements follow Lowe's original recordings (especially "Half a Boy and Half a Man"), but more often Los Straitjackets put their own spin on the tunes, and generally they're quite effective. The folk-rock-ish spin on "(What's So Funny 'Bout) Peace Love and Understanding" sure fits the bill, and the roller-rink sound of "Rollers Show" makes for good musical fun and fine listening at once. The surfy ambience of "All Men Are Liars," the Duane Eddy-style charge through "Heart of the City," and the dreamy late-night mood of "You Inspire Me" demonstrate these guys can tackle a tune in any number of ways, and they seem especially inspired by taking on the challenge of Lowe's back catalog. If you've ever dug the cool but fiery retro sound of Los Straitjackets, What's So Funny... will once again remind you of their brilliant chops and sense of fun, while Nick Lowe fans will definitely want to give a listen to this homage to one of rock's best living songwriters.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming