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Nick Lowe: Quotable And Clear-Headed

<p>As hopeful and humane as it is devastatingly sad, Nick Lowe's "House for Sale" is more than just a metaphor.</p>
Courtesy of the artist

As hopeful and humane as it is devastatingly sad, Nick Lowe's "House for Sale" is more than just a metaphor.

One of the great living songwriters, Nick Lowe has spent the last four-plus decades painting vivid and complex portraits with words. And, like so many masters, Lowe understands that what he leaves out can be just as striking as what he splashes on the canvas: "House for Sale" tells a story about heartbreak in which the specifics are painstakingly papered over. What remains — a matter-of-fact look at a home that's become just another worn-down piece of property — is more relatable for the way Lowe looks forward, letting the wry resignation in his voice fill in the narrative gaps.

The economy of phrasing here is remarkable: "House for sale / Take a look inside / This is where love once did reside." From there, Lowe lists a litany of structural woes in need of repair before plunging in the dagger, asking, "Whatever's happened to my happy home?" Naturally, it fell victim to neglect — like the narrator himself — but Lowe's humanity peeks out through tattered curtains. As ultimately hopeful and humane as it is devastatingly sad, "House for Sale" is more than just a metaphor for a relationship that's been drained of affection. It even winds up dispensing quotable and clear-headed instructions for the house's future inhabitants, in the kind hope that they'll have more luck than he did.

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Stephen Thompson is a writer, editor and reviewer for NPR Music, where he speaks into any microphone that will have him and appears as a frequent panelist on All Songs Considered. Since 2010, Thompson has been a fixture on the NPR roundtable podcast Pop Culture Happy Hour, which he created and developed with NPR correspondent Linda Holmes. In 2008, he and Bob Boilen created the NPR Music video series Tiny Desk Concerts, in which musicians perform at Boilen's desk. (To be more specific, Thompson had the idea, which took seconds, while Boilen created the series, which took years. Thompson will insist upon equal billing until the day he dies.)
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