And you can see the same cynicism in the cover art, half a dozen images of Lowe (actually, in one case, Dave Edmunds) posing with the appropriate guitar as designer stubble folkie, grinning flower child, tartan-clad glam rocker, new wave hipster, heavy metal greaser (that one’s Edmunds, a wry little comment in itself) and twin guitar prog-rock dinosaur.

There’s the implication that we’re looking at a pop chameleon who’s capable of delivering anything, a suggestion that’s reinforced by the cutting-edge tinkling disco pop of I Love the Sound of Breaking Glass, the Beach Boys harmonies from Lowe and Edmunds on Little Hitler and Shake and Pop ‘s dig at major label reactions to a one-hit-wonder's follow-up (Arista say they love it, but the kids can't dance to it), later cloned in more obviously Chuck Berry mode for They Called It Rock. The variety continues through lush ballad territory that verges on syrupy pop corn parody on Tonight, infectious driving power pop (So It Goes, the first single that appeared on the Stiff label and would, in a just world, have gone to #!), a dash of poppish reggae (No Reason) and the downright odd (a cover of Jim Ford’s 36 Inches High).

But it’s the last couple of tracks that really display Lowe at his best. Kenneth Anger's catalogue of Tinseltown scandals (Hollywood Babylon) provides the source material for Marie Provost, the story of a silent movie actress whose corpse became food for her dachshund (She was a winner/Who became a doggie’s dinner) where the jaunty tune is completely at odds with the subject matter, and the narrator’s admission that she never meant that much to me. The track became an instant favourite when I first heard it thirty-five years ago, and it’s remained that way ever since.

I had, however, forgotten the equally jaunty Nutted by Reality, two and three-quarter minutes of analysis of the geopolitics of the Cuban revolution that kicks off with the observation thatI heard they castrated Castro, I heard they cut off everything he had, what a dirty, low-down thing to do, to mess him up like that. The geopolitics side of it is my reading of a track that definitely seems to be about the crunch when idealistic ambitions encounter the cold hard knife of the real world’s vested interests.

The album proper concludes with the exhilarating Rockpile-powered Heart of the City , recorded live and punchy as anything you’re likely to encounter on the powerpop scene, but as we’ve come to expect reissues and remasters mean bonus tracks and this edition of Jesus of Cool serves up a fair whack of them.

Along with Marie Provost, the Duane Eddy-style instrumental Shake That Rat , the cover of Sandy Posey’s Born a Woman and Endless Sleep on 1977’s Bowi EP (Bowie did Low, so Lowe does Bowi) while I first encountered I Love My Label on A Bunch of Stiff Records back in the punk/new wave heyday. The Rockpile-driven Chuck Berry take on the album proper’s Shake and Pop (They Called It Rock) rocks along the way you’d expect it to, and there are nods to influences (Gerry Goffin and Carole King’s Halfway to Paradise and the Bobby Fuller tribute I Don't Want the Night to End), Lowe’s own past (the Brinsley Schwartz demo for Cruel to Be Kind) and the studio version of Heart of the City.

Then there’s The Tartan Horde’s Rollers Show, which might have started off as a cynical take the money and run exercise but turned into a major hit in Japan and shows how pop-savvy Lowe could be when he set his mind to it. By itself you’d be inclined to regard it as a throwaway, but here, alongside the “serious” stuff it’s a reminder that Lowe was partial to the old tongue in cheek as he set about making sure the readies continued to accumulate.

Lowe had, after all, been on the edge of things for nearly a decade, had seen promises of riches shot down in flames through the Famepushers Brinsley Schwarz debacle, rekindled the fire through the pub rock era with the resilient Brinsleys and as a keen observer of what was going on around him was quite capable of turning out a tuneful line in something that would fit a particular bill.

It’s a mark of the man’s awareness of his own position that he chose to avoid churning out a straight out generic product (take a look back through the album and there are any number of avenues he could have chosen to head down at length), preferring to display an awareness of a variety of genres and influences in a product that was diverse enough to maintain interest long after a particular fad had faded.

Pure Pop For Now People? Perhaps not any more, but a collection of tracks that’ll add interest and variety to the canny consumer’s iPod playlist.

© Ian Hughes 2012