January 23, 1995 12:00 PM

Nick Lowe

As 45-year-old Lowe, long regarded as one of Britain’s quirkiest and funniest pop exports, enters the rock equivalent of the golden years, he seems to be recasting himself as a ’50s-style crooner, singing mostly heartbreaking ballads mixed with an occasional mischievous tune. His more serious side is revealed on “The Beast in Me,” when he straps on his acoustic guitar and sings in an appropriately plaintive, detached tone. But Lowe, who titled one of his albums Party of One, is careful to show that his famous funny bone is still intact; he uses the song “12 Step Program” as a metaphor for a bad breakup.

Old Lowe fans might want some more of the rockabilly feel of “I’ll Be There” sprinkled throughout the record. But the beautifully crafted ballads and smart sense of fun make The Impossible Bird a high point in his career. (Upstart Sounds)

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