With Dig My Mood, released January 26, 1998, Nick Lowe finally completed his transition from the Original Pub Rocker to the Bitter Aging Rocker, and it’s not as unpleasant a development as it sounds. Sure, he had dabbled with this persona on earlier albums, most notably Party Of One and The Impossible Bird, but those records had their share of foot-stompers mixed in with the ballads.
Titles like “Faithless Lover” and “Lonesome Reverie” tip you off right away that this album isn’t going to be the feel-good record of the year. Released a year prior to his 50th birthday, Dig My Mood represents the somber reflections of a man on the brink of middle age. The closest he comes to uptempo on this album is his straightforward country cover of Ivory Joe Hunter‘s “Cold Grey Light Of Dawn” in which his band makes the occasional nod toward roadhouse rockabilly without ever committing fully to it.
But the album isn’t all dour defeatist anthems, either. “You Inspire Me” comes off as a love song to someone who makes it worth getting out of bed in the morning. “Freezing” is a Christmas song that never mentions Christmas, a latter-day, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” without the potential for snide date-rape commentary.
Still, the best cuts on the record are the darkest. “Man That I’ve Become” introduces us to a narrator who has lost all joy in his life and who despises the world around him, a friendless beast of a man unable to take any solace or happiness from his fellow human beings. And “Failed Christian” is a chilling, beautiful take on losing faith:
I’m a failed Christian
I don’t go to church
I smoke and I drink and I lie and I curse
I’ve got two recollections
Stealing the collection
And tears when the choir sang in harmony…
This song in particular is what sold me on this album, particularly since it was so much more mellow than his prior albums. I’d been turned on to Nick Lowe’s music by a friend who introduced me to his catalog beyond “Cruel To Be Kind” when I was in my mid-twenties. As a young man struggling with my own faith, “Failed Christian” was a dim light in a dark room, a recognition that I wasn’t the first or only person to have tremendous guilt over my newfound inability to believe the things I’d been raised to believe. The song gives me chills to this day and remains my favorite cut on this record.
Nick would continue to play the role of Bitter Aging Rocker on subsequent releases, and to better effect, particularly on the excellent The Convincer in 2001. But Dig My Mood is where he really embraced the role fully for the first time and it results in an instant classic. It’s going on six years since his last proper studio release (discounting the rather enjoyable Quality Street Christmas album) so I’m hoping for something new in the near future. Until then, as a man standing on the brink of middle age myself now, I’ll continue to treasure his later works.