“The Modern Lovers” by The Modern Lovers - album review

features in: Album Chart of 1976Album Chart of the Decade: 1970s1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die external-link.png

TJR says

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

A1 [04:04] 10.0.png The Modern Lovers - Roadrunner [1972] (Jonathan Richman) Proto-Punk
A2 [03:00] 8.1.png The Modern Lovers - Astral Plane (Jonathan Richman) New Wave
A3 [04:00] 8.3.png The Modern Lovers - Old World (Jonathan Richman) New Wave
A4 [04:15] 9.7.png The Modern Lovers - Pablo Picasso (Jonathan Richman) Trance Rock
B1 [02:53] 9.9.png The Modern Lovers - She Cracked (Jonathan Richman) Proto-Punk
B2 [05:31] 8.9.png The Modern Lovers - Hospital (Jonathan Richman) Moodcore
B3 [03:37] 8.8.png The Modern Lovers - Someone I Care About (Jonathan Richman) Trance Rock
B4 [03:51] 9.3.png The Modern Lovers - Girl Friend (Jonathan Richman) Moodcore
B5 [03:40] 8.6.png The Modern Lovers - Modern World (Jonathan Richman) Proto-Punk

© The Jukebox Rebel 2005-2020 All Rights Reserved