Rockpile: Seconds of Pleasure [reissue]

Stephen Haag


Seconds of Pleasure [reissue]

Label: Legacy
US Release Date: 2004-04-27
UK Release Date: 2004-05-03

There's never a bad time to be a fan of Nick Lowe or Dave Edmunds (though the mid-'80s were a little lean) and 2004 is shaping up to be one of the better years in recent memory for such fandom. Their beloved British pub rock band, Brinsley Schwarz, just released Cruel to be Kind, a collection of early-'70s archival BBC recordings, and now comes the re-release (and upgrade) of Seconds of Pleasure, from Lowe and Edmunds' days as pub rockers/power poppers Rockpile. The band -- guitarist/keyboardist Edmunds, bassist Lowe, along with guitarist Billy Bremner and drummer Terry Williams -- played together all throughout the 1970s but managed to capture their magic on tape only once, for 1980's Seconds of Pleasure. A rift between Lowe and Edmunds ensured no follow-up album, but that doesn't detract from the fact that Seconds is an unmitigated masterpiece.

Reading up on Lowe and Edmunds in preparation of this review, I get the feeling that they were the Jeff Tweedy and Jay Farrar, respectively, of their day. Lowe, like Tweedy, was prone to more straightforward rockers and was a little more loosey-goosey, to boot. Meanwhile, Edmunds, like Farrar, felt compelled to play the role of Keeper of the Flame, recreating the Sun Studios sound that preceded him. Of course, by the time Anodyne, Uncle Tupelo's swan song, rolled around, Tweedy and Farrar's songwriting personae couldn't both fit under the Tupelo banner, and one gets the same vibe from Lowe and Edmunds on Seconds. While they share songwriting credits with Bremner and Williams on the album's original twelve tracks, they alternate lead vocals, ensuring that no one wields too much power in the band (though they do let Bremner take the mic for "Heart" and "You Ain't Nothin' But Fine").

But rather than cancel each other out, the two men use their different strengths to push each other to greater heights. Edmunds' focus reigns in Lowe's wilders impulses, and Lowe's palpable sense of fun loosens up the staid Edmunds. Among the six originals -- they're all highlights, so I'll just cherry-pick a few for closer examination -- "Now and Always" could be a lost Buddy Holly track; the chugging "Play That Fast Thing (One More Time)" is an old Brinsley Schwarz chestnut with a new coat of paint, courtesy of Edmunds's piano; and "When I Write the Book" matches Lowe's darkly funny lyrics -- "When I write the book about my love / It'll be about a man who's torn in half / About his hopes and ambitions wasted through the years / The pain will be writing on every page in tears" -- with a tune so catchy one barely realizes how bleak the lyrics are.

And the covers prove that as good as Lowe and Edmunds are at penning originals, they're equally adept at digging up fantastic old tunes and putting the Rockpile stamp on them. At the risk of sounding heretical, the covers are almost better than the originals. Lowe captures the illicit love implicit in Gene Chandler's "Teacher Teacher" ("Lesson Two: Lovin' you"), while Edmunds puts a new-wave spin on "Wrong Again (Let's Face It)" (written by the dudes from Squeeze!) and wins the award for the album's funniest song, by unearthing Kip Anderson's bizarro pub rocker/overeaters' anthem, "Knife and Fork". I'd be doing readers a disservice if I didn't mention the song's most priceless line: "You wear a size 44 / Have to turn sideways to get through the door / Girl, you let the knife and fork dig your grave".

Less goofy, but equally winning, are four Everly Brothers' covers culled from the Nick Lowe and Dave Edmunds Sing the Everly Brothers EP. Dialing down the rock and playing up the vocal harmonies, the two turn in a batch of reverent covers (surely Edmunds' idea?). While these four songs have been available since the CD's original pressing back in 1988, this newest version of the album also adds three new live recordings -- "Back to Schooldays", "They Called it Rock", and "Crawling from the Wreckage" -- that only hint at the band's legendary live power.

Kudos to Columbia/Legacy for letting a new batch of fans get the opportunity to hear two masters operating at the peak of their powers.

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.