Here is a veteran singer and producer, emerging from a dry spell determined, or so it seems, to be as unpretentious as possible. As Nick Lowe told an interviewer, ''I realized I could just go into the studio with some great guys and sing some songs without getting all hot and sweaty about it.''
And the result, Party of One, seems at first to be an amiable curiosity, finger-popping roots stuff gone slightly weird. ''I feel better than a sting-y bee,'' Lowe sings, strutting over a tight boogie beat. The sting-y bee suggests a loony refrain, which then becomes the inexplicable title of the song: ''Shting- Shtang.''
Typical Nick Lowe, in other words, careening from style to style and from subject to subject, sometimes serious, sometimes insane, almost always hard to resist. And in a song called ''All Men Are Liars'' it all comes together. There's a disarming tune, loping to a friendly beat. There's a dizzying (if not quite literary) rhyme: ''Well, do you remember Rick Astley?/He had a big hit, it was ghastly.'' Astley, of course, is the entirely amiable British pop star whose superhit ''Together Forever'' promised eternal love. But you can't believe him, see, because all men well, you know. ''Hey, girls!'' chortles our renegade. ''Bring rusty pliers/To pull this tooth/All men are liars.'' Pull this tooth? What's that mean? Uproot the lie? Anyhow tell it, Nick. B+