By Rob Brunner
Updated March 03, 2008 at 05:00 AM EST
Peter Mazel/Sunshine/Retna UK

Why is Elvis Costello a huge star while his early collaborator Nick Lowe continues to crank out excellent records in relative obscurity? It’s a bit of a mystery, though the answer might have to do with consistency, charisma, and a certain pair of chunky black eyeglasses. One thing’s for sure, though: You can’t fault Lowe’s solo debut, reissued here three decades after its release.

Jesus of Cool is hard to pin down, both a product of its time and totally apart from it. As the first artist signed to Stiff Records, Lowe often gets lumped in with early punk, and there is plenty of cynicism and anger here. The polished pop sound, however, is something else entirely. Jesus is full of mini masterpieces — like the cheerfully resigned ”So It Goes” and ”Marie Provost,” a bit of musical uplift about an actress who was eaten by her dog — that rival Costello’s more famous work of the time.

The somewhat skimpy bonus material includes three tracks from a slightly retooled U.S. release (I978’s Pure Pop for Now People), along with other worthy but mostly familiar odds and ends. A killer concert version of ”Heart of the City” closes the original album, so why not include a second disc of live material — like the recent reissue of Costello’s debut? This underappreciated achievement deserves to be treated like the classic it is. Album: A Bonus Material: B+