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Los Straitjackets Salute Nick Lowe With 'What's So Funny About Peace, Love And Los Straitjackets' Album: Song Premiere

Jim Herrington
Los Straitjackets

After three years of holiday tours with Nick Lowe, a Los Straitjackets tribute to the British singer, songwriter and producer hardly comes as a surprise. And it will come on May 19, when the masked troupe releases What's So Funny About Peace, Love And Los Straitjackets, featuring instrumental covers of 13 Lowe favorites including "Rollers Show," premiered exclusively below.

"The tours have gone really well," bassist Pete Curry tells Billboard. "We're on Yep Roc Records, the same label Nick is on, and maybe a year ago somebody had the idea we should do an entire record of Nick Lowe songs instrumentally, and it seemed like a pretty good idea." Guitarist Eddie Angel adds, "We've become cosmically connected, Nick and us. We've learned a lot working with him, and now working up these versions of his songs."

It wasn't always easy, either, according to the Straitjackets. "We're doing a lot of stuff we never have done before, taking some chances on arrangements and things of that nature," explains Curry, a professed fan of Lowe's since 1978's Jesus Of Cool LP. "The tricky thing about turning vocal songs into instrumentals usually is a lot of times the melodies will be more repetitious, and then you have to look for ways to make each time through a little different. But his songs aren't really like that -- he's got melodies that are interesting throughout, so it was kind of cool that they worked so well."

Los Straitjackets picked the songs for the album based on a longer list provided by Lowe's manager (Lowe's son Roy plays percussion on some of the tracks). "We all picked ones that we thought would make good instruments, and Danny (Amis) and Eddie and Greg (Townson) did demos and brought 'em in to work from," Curry says. "Rollers Show," he adds, "kind of arranged itself," according to Curry. "He was making fun of that kind of Gary Glitter, Bay City Rollers pop music, anthem stuff that was popular in the late 70s, so we just went with that feel. It was fun to do." Angel adds, "You realize he writes great melodies; sometimes that's not obvious because his lyrics are good and he's a real lyric guy. But, man, he writes really great melodies -- "Peace, Love and Understanding," "Cruel To Be Kind," "Raging Eyes," all that stuff. It's been fun to hear them back, and really educational."

Los Straitjackets will be playing a show with Lowe during August in New York and are planning to hit the road together again in October. Meanwhile the group has a two-week run with Marshall Crenshaw starting June 15 in Carrboro, N.C. "We're going to do a similar kind of set-up like we do with Nick, where he'll do a few by himself, we'll come out and back him, up, then do some by ourselves and just do a rockin' show together," Curry says. "We're still at the emailing stage, getting songs lists from each other and stuff. It works pretty well with Nick; I'm sure it'll be the same with [Crenshaw]."