There’s something unavoidably slimy about greatest hits packages. Stitched together from old singles and repainted with dreary bonus material, these late-career milestones act as musical Cliffs Notes for the unambitious, and, in their rare best instances, stand out as deftly chosen career summations. Quiet Please…The New Best of Nick Lowe, a career-spanning, two-disc compilation, opts for the slightly classier “Best of” title, which hints more at quality than sales and, for a commercially neglected musician like Nick Lowe, suits the mood just fine. But the selections here exhibit an unfortunate lack of filter, leaving an album overloaded with spurious material; with 49 tracks from an artist who’s put out 12 albums, this might as well have been called Most of Nick Lowe.
Yes, it seems frivolous to quibble over the size of a career retrospective, but as perfunctory as these things may seem, they undoubtedly function as arbiters of a musician’s legacy, not to mention an access point for curious potential fans. In that regard Quiet Please is nearly inapproachable. Besides its two-hour-plus length, the album gives no special regard to good material, granting equal status to Lowe’s infrequent bouts of embarrassing schlock, as seen in the inexplicable appearance of “I Knew the Bride (When She Used to Rock and Roll),” a depressingly cheesy song with wedding-reception aspirations. Even worse, a piece of weak later material, 1990’s “All Men Are Liars,” is given primacy as the album’s lead single. All this only serves to dilute the razor-sharp pop that actually belongs on a best-of disc.
Its hard to say that this improves on Lowe’s earlier best-of collection, 1989’s much slimmer Basher, or even that it’s necessary. Some of Lowe’s recordings in the last 20 years are enjoyable, but none of them approach his late-’70s prime. The only new standout is his cover of Elvis Costello’s “What’s So Funny ’Bout Peace, Love and Understanding,” originally written by Lowe and left off the earlier retrospective. Otherwise, Quiet Please seems glaringly blind to what makes a good Nick Lowe song. It has all the hits you’d want, but none of the pruning, leaving this a fawning collection with greater emphasis on quantity than quality.