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Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe weren't the only English Stiffs to invade the states

Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby tell their side of the story



Wreckless Eric never quite gained the notoriety of his Stiff Records' labelmates Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe — at least not in the States. But as one of the original Stiff exports of the '70s, he was no less an important figure in the second British pop invasion.

Through his early, out-of-tune singles "Whole Wide World" and "Semaphore Signals," he gained a rep as the label's punk sympathizer. Born Eric Goulden, he was a gruff counterpart to the well-mannered Lowe and the purportedly pompous Costello, and was never afraid to call anybody out. "I always liked Nick Lowe, but I thought Elvis Costello was a bit of a wanker," he offers through his pinched British accent.

Over the years his records have taken varying angles with bands, such as Len Bright Combo and the Captains of Industry. His latest release, titled Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby, is a collaboration with his American-born wife. It flows with psychedelic pop tones, concealing bucolic and lo-fi country melodies.

"There have always been country-music references in Eric's songs that seem exotic to an American," Rigby explains. "I remember listening to 'Semaphore Signals' for the first time and it not making much sense to me. The feeling came through, but the Englishness of it was the attraction."

On the new album, "Astrovan" is a swirling stab at Their Satanic Majesties Request-era Rolling Stones psych pop. "The Downside of Being a Fuck-Up" follows suit with a Wreckless Eric life anthem, which is not without a sense of humor.

And together they're still calling people out. "Men in Sandals" makes fun of the footwear favored by hippies and frat guys, and generally wreaks havoc at their shows. "My friends call her the foot Nazi," Eric laughs. She adds, "You can watch people looking at everyone else's feet at our shows ... So I end the song yelling "... but flip-flops are OK!"

Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby with Gentleman Jesse, the N.E.C. $8. Wed., Sept. 17. 9 p.m. Star Bar, 437 Moreland Ave. 404-681-9018.

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