The Modern Lovers - The Modern Lovers - Review
← 349 album.png 351 →

critics' view

My album of the year in ’76 was a mutation; aborted recordings from 1971-72 finally given their place as an album statement, albeit one which the songwriter, Jonathan Richman, didn’t want to make. Having being dumped by Warner Bros for being difficult in ’74, he was forging ahead with the Modern Lovers that he envisaged – alas, a twee rockabilly shadow of the early 70s VU-inspired incarnation of his group. The all-new “Jonathan Richman and The Modern Lovers” (Beserkley BZ-0048) was already in the shops by the time “The Modern Lovers” (Home Of The Hits HH-1910) was delivered in August 1976 – all very confusing for the casual fan.

Kicking off the album is the definitive version of “Roadrunner”, as produced by John Cale 4 years earlier, now being heard here for the first time. A ’74 version had been released as a 45 in 1975, but this faster / punkier album version was even better – and you’d have thought that was near impossible for my song of the year ’75. The romance of the thing is striking; going faster miles an hour ‘neath the neon lights of Massachusetts with the radio on, he’s digging the spirit of ’56. It’s a pure Rock n Roll high – who needs crystal meth?

Astral Plane” gives the game away as a 1972 recording – musically, it’s a clear homage to the Doors which swings brilliantly and has the swirling organ of soon-to-be Talking Head, Jerry Harrison, playing a major part. What they’re doing is new and fresh all the same, perfectly underlined on “Old World” which has a VU jangle, a psychedelic organ, more lyrics about how Jon dig the 50s, but still manages to scream “New Wave”. With the benefit of hindsight, this thing was shaping up as a highly effective Rock n Roll to Indie Pop conduit.

The influence of John Cale’s insistent piano styling is clear on “Pablo Picasso”, which is 4-minutes of head-nodding trance-out heaven. The whole group are awesome, and Jonathan’s detached, sneering vocals are perfect for the job. They could have been the greatest band in the world had they released this in ’72. What was the matter with them?

The quality is maintained straight away on side 2 which opens with “She Cracked”, an intensely exciting Punk thriller, completely digging on the Stooges. A more sensitive side of the front man is then revealed on the gorgeous “Hospital” – a king amongst unrequited love songs – and “Girlfriend”, where true heart-on-the-sleeve vulnerability is laid down in a decidedly anti-pop-star fashion. Again, the Modern Lovers are able to rise and fall magnificently with the front-man.

Another Stooges-esque number, “Modern World”, closes the set and the parting verse serves as a summary of the prevalent hopeless romantic manifesto “Well, the modern world is not so bad, not like the students say, in fact I'd be in heaven, if you'd share the modern world with me”. That Pablo Picasso feller might never have been called an asshole, but as for whoever prevented this LP from being released in 1972…

The Jukebox Rebel external-link.png

the-jukebox-rebel.png
A one-man work-in-progress website, aiming for ~10,000 album reviews, ~200,000 track ratings and a whole lotta charts, all from my own collection.
thejukeboxrebel.com external-link.png
twitter.png





Care to share?

(if so, thanks!)

© The Jukebox Rebel 2005-2019. All rights reserved. Third-party trademarks and content are the property of their respective owners, and subject to their own copyright terms and conditions. See the website links provided in each case.