Quiet Please: The New Best of Nick Lowe
Quiet Please bears the subtitle "The New Best of Nick Lowe", making no attempt to disguise the fact that it's been a full 20 years since Nick's last hits collection, Basher. That "new" designation is also a subtle indication of the editorial slant of Quiet Please, how it shifts away from the frenzied new wave rocker toward the swinging songwriter of the '90s and 2000s, and not just because the second disc of this double-disc set is devoted to the mellow, deeply felt country-rock and torch songs that have been Lowe's specialty since 1994's The Impossible Bird. Compilation producer Gregg Geller admits to bypassing Lowe's covers in favor of his originals -- that explains why such singles as "Switchboard Susan," "Teacher Teacher," and "7 Nights to Rock" aren't here -- but he also deliberately skews the selection of songs from the '70s and '80s to create a common thread from Brinsley Schwarz's 1974 finale The New Favourites to 2007's At My Age, one that concentrates on Lowe's wry, immaculately crafted songs and not the pop prankster Jesus of Cool. This approach may fit the sensibility of Lowe's latter-day records, illustrating the through line from "Endless Sleep" and "You Make Me" to "Lately I've Let Things Slide" and "Indian Queens," but it isn't necessarily a more accurate reading of his career. After all, until The Impossible Bird, there was a lot of rock & roll in Lowe's albums, something that this collection downplays quite a bit -- but if that's the side of Nick you need to hear, stick with Basher, whose title speaks to its style as much as Quiet Please. Plus, this rock & roll deficiency is the only flaw on this otherwise sterling collection, the first to cover pretty much his entire career, which means it's the first to give an idea of just what a consistent body of work Lowe has built up over the years. Over the course of two discs and 49 tracks, the sounds may shift but the quality doesn't: there's not a dip in quality and everything on the second disc holds its own with the music on the first. Throughout it all, Lowe's knack for sly, understated songcraft shines and if he doesn't necessarily get better over the years, he might get seamless, writing songs so elegantly polished and delivered they seem effortless. While it could hardly be said to have all of Nick's best -- it not only is skimpy on rock and Rockpile, but also only one cut from Brinsley Schwarz -- it does what so few career-spanning compilations do: it tells a story and stands as testament to the artist's enormous talents.