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The Modern Lovers Week – Day 2: Jonathan Richman: Beyond The Modern Lovers’ The Modern Lovers

TO CELEBRATE THIS WEEK’S RELEASE (FEBRUARY 9TH) OF OUR 33 1/3 ON  THE MODERN LOVERS’ THE MODERN LOVERS, WE’RE PLEASED TO BRING YOU THE SECOND INSTALLMENT OF MODERN LOVERS WEEK BY AUTHOR SEAN L. MALONEY!

The toughest part about writing about The Modern Lovers was staying focused on The Modern Lovers. It’s not that The Modern Lovers isn’t an amazing record—I like it more than when I started writing the book—it’s just that Jonathan Richman has other great records. Like, forty years’ worth of great records. Here are my favorites from the rest of his catalog:

Ishkode! Ishkode! (Blue Arrow Records, 2016)
I say this every time, but Richman’s newest record may be his best. I think it comes closest to the ideal that he’s been aspiring to since his earliest days. It is rich, warm and raw with a vital rock n roll spark. Behold the power and the glory of the “Louie Louie” chords! Marvel at the multi-lingual singalongs!

Rock ‘n’ Roll with the Modern Lovers (Beserkley Records, 1977)
When I was a young, dumb punk kid with hard and fast rules of what constituted cool, I thought this record was lame. Maybe it was Jonathan’s dashiki-and-flairs or maybe it was the “Wheels on the Bus” cover. Needless to say, I was dumb and wrong. “Dodge-Veg-O-Matic” is the jam.

I, Jonathan (Rounder Records, 1991)
“I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar” is essential Richman, a perfect example of his bright eyed humanism, but the rest of this record scorches as well. “Velvet Underground” is the best song about the best band, a masterful fan letter to momentous artists. And “That Summer Feeling” is as swoon-worthy a romance as any in the rock era.

Jonathan Goes Country (Rounder Records, 1990)
I’m dead serious when I say that Richman’s country album is maybe the best thing he ever did. Even better, maybe, than The Modern Lovers. Richman’s songwriting in the hands of real deal Nashville players makes more incredibly catchy, incredibly self-aware kitsch. Too bad the rest of the world wasn’t ready for it.

I’m So Confused (Vapor Records, 1998)
Richman and The Cars’ Ric Ocasek made a really weird record toward the end of the 90s. Ocasek, fresh off the first Weezer album, and Richman fresh off the set of There’s Something about Mary, made a record that sounds like Raymond Scott writing arrangements for Chuck Berry. It’s the most commercial thing Richman would ever record.

It’s still really odd though.

Okay, it’s the oddest thing he ever did. It’s really weird. It’s really good.

One comment

  1. Phil O.

    Last “new” Richman I checked out was “I, Jonathan”! I have some catching-up to do. Personally, I’d put his solo debut and “Jonathan Sings!” on this list, too.

    Can’t wait to read the new book!

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