You get a lot of practice singing when you have a baby. You try to get the little one to sleep by singing all the lullabies you can think of, and quickly you realize you can’t remember very many lullabies. So you start in with whatever songs you know, and, if your kid is as reluctant to go to sleep as mine is, you’ll go through every song you know. When one day your kid is old enough to sing back to you, you may wonder if you should have exposed him at such a tender age to sentiments like those expressed in “Cruel to Be Kind” by Nick Lowe.
Lowe may be the undisputed master of that school of songwriting where one takes an upbeat melody and an irresistible rhythm and weds them to lyrics that are sick jokes, sad stories, or just disturbing meditations on life in general. “Cruel to Be Kind,” a hit for Lowe in 1979 (he had recorded it at least a couple of times before then), is an excellent example, but so is “Marie Provost,” about a faded silent-movie star who dies alone and is eaten by her pet dachshund. Even Lowe’s often-covered “(What’s So Funny ’bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding?” is disturbing: See how it assumes, right there in the title, that most people think that peace, love, and understanding are nothing but jokes?
Over the years Lowe has had more career downfalls and comebacks than some people his age have had changes of hairstyle, but that slightly perverse, melancholy sense of humor permeates all of his work even today.
NICK LOWE, Belly Up, Monday, October 6, 8 p.m. 858-481-8140. $25.