Artist: Los Straitjackets
Album: What’s So Funny About Peace, Love and Los Straitjackets
Label: Yep Roc
Release Date: 05.19.2017
The premise sounds intriguing: The much respected surf band and off-kilter instrumental ensemble Los Straitjackets offering up an entire album of Nick Lowe classics. And indeed, a cursory listen finds them carrying the concept well, capturing the essence of Lowe’s melodies while conveying them in their own signature style.
Still, Los Straitjackets have always been an acquired taste. Their tendency to wear masks and wrestling gear generally suggests they’re both a niche and a novelty. That’s the impression left here as well, and while Lowe himself is pictured on the album cover dutifully checking his notes, the execution becomes more a curiosity than any attempt to redefine Lowe’s work to any great degree. In truth, these instrumental offerings lack an important element that’s always been so vital to Lowe’s inherent appeal, that is, his remarkable wordplay and the irony and emotion that those lyrics convey. To paraphrase the title of one of the songs included here, it makes this music only half the joy and half the man.
There’s no doubt that Los Straitjackets excel at what they do. They’re an entertaining ensemble, but in this case, taking well known songs like “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding,” “Cruel to be Kind” and “Heart of the City” and subsequently repositioning them with their own twang and reverb leaves the same effect as Muzak, providing recognition but doing little as far as taking the material to any higher plain. Ultimately, a single spin should suffice.