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Modern Lovers
Modern Lovers, Jonathan Richman
Modern Lovers
Genres: Alternative Rock, Folk, Pop, Rock
  •  Track Listings (12) - Disc #1

2007 vinyl LP pressing of this classic from Jonathan Richman and friends. Compiled of demos the band recorded with John Cale in 1973, The Modern Lovers is one of the great Proto-Punk albums of all time, capturing an angst-...  more »


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CD Details

All Artists: Modern Lovers, Jonathan Richman
Title: Modern Lovers
Members Wishing: 9
Total Copies: 0
Label: Rhino / Wea
Release Date: 9/12/1989
Genres: Alternative Rock, Folk, Pop, Rock
Styles: Hardcore & Punk, Contemporary Folk, Singer-Songwriters, Vocal Pop
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaCD Credits: 1
UPC: 081227009120


Album Description
2007 vinyl LP pressing of this classic from Jonathan Richman and friends. Compiled of demos the band recorded with John Cale in 1973, The Modern Lovers is one of the great Proto-Punk albums of all time, capturing an angst-ridden adolescent geekiness which is married to a stripped-down, minimalistic Rock 'N' Roll derived from the Art-Punk of the Velvet Underground. As he says in the classic two-chord anthem 'Roadrunner,' Jonathan Richman is in love with the modern world and Rock 'N' Roll. He's still a teenager at heart, which means he's not only in love with girls he can't have, but also radios, suburbs, and fast food. But beneath his adolescent posturing, Richman is also nakedly emotional, pleading for a lover on 'Someone I Care About' and 'Girl Friend,' or romanticizing the future on 'Dignified and Old.' That combination of musical simplicity, driving Rock 'N' Roll, and gawky emotional confessions makes The Modern Lovers one of the most startling Proto-Punk records. It strips Rock 'N' Roll to its core and establishes the Rock tradition of the geeky, awkward social outcast venting his frustrations. More importantly, the music is just as raw and exciting now as when it was recorded in 1973, or when it was belatedly released in 1976. Get Back.

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CD Reviews

A No Man's Land Between Proto-Punk and New Wave
Blake Maddux | Arlington, MA United States | 01/28/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"There is a scene near the end of the movie "Manhattan" in which Woody Allen's friend angrily says to him, "You think you're God!", to which Woody replies, "I gotta model myself after someone!"

This is the same line of defense I would offer to any singer who is accused of sounding too much like Lou Reed. Jonathan Richman is perhaps chief among those who have met with this accusation. Whether or not Richman really does sound that much like him is debatable, but he clearly and unapologetically invokes the powers of the leader of his favorite band. (Richman explained in an interview that he used to draw and paint all day as a young man, but that was before he discovered The Velvet Underground.)

The Modern Lovers' debut seems an unlikely candidate for such an influential record. It has certainly received its share of nearly hyperbolic praise. Andy "Music Geek on 'Beat the Geeks'" Zax says that "Roadrunner" is his all-time favorite song, and the good folks at say that without this song, "we're pretty sure Western culture would have ended in 1977". And the fact that The Sex Pistols (and Joan Jett, and others) did a cover of it hardly helps to refute the idea that this completely unthreatening track is a quintessential proto-punk single. Moreover, I have seen the track "Pablo Picasso" performed live by three different artists: David Bowie, Richman himself, and John Cale, who produced the early Modern Lovers sessions.

But there is more to Jonathan Richman's influence than his music. His image has had an equally widespread impact. He was surely not the first geeky, awkward outsider to become a rock star, but he was surely among the first to flaunt it (with all due respect to Buddy Holly). In addition to Richman's obvious influence on punk, his whimsy, winsomeness, silliness, and geekiness is apparent in Talking Heads (of whom Modern Lover Jerry Harrison was later a member), They Might Be Giants, Weezer, Fountains of Wayne, The Magnetic Fields/Stephin Merritt, and the Swedish songmeister Jens Lekman.

The best place to start in reviewing this record is with the setting of many of the songs. Plenty of major cities in the world - L.A., New York, London - have had their stories chronicled in popular music. With The Modern Lovers, Boston (my adopted hometown) gets a bit of its due. Granted, the lure of Beantown may not be as romantic as the City of Angels or the Big Apple, but it certainly has its charms for a young Jonathan Richman-type suburbanite. From the Stop-N-Shop and "[Route] 128 in the moonlight", to the Museum of Fine Arts, the Fenway, and BU, Richman knows the town he loves the way Lou Reed knows NYC, or Ray Davies knows London. (Of course, the Naked City - Richman's adopted hometown - is mentioned a few times on the record, too.)

The songwriting and musicianship on this record are deliberately amateurish. Notice how he spells "Girl Friend" incorrectly in the song of the same name in order to make a pretty obvious rhyme. Sometimes it is to a fault, and the quality is a bit compromised (eg, "Old World"), while other times the results are inspired, such as in "Modern World". "I love the USA/I love the modern world/Put down the cigarette/And drop outta BU" is one of my favorite lyrics on the album. (The variations on this refrain include that last line being "act like a true girl" and "drop outta high school".) I know that doesn't sound like much, but to hear Richman sing it in his mock-tough guy voice makes all the difference.

And while he could be accused (if not convicted) of posturing, Richman convincingly shows his many sides on this record. He is a giddy and optimistic young man on "Roadrunner" and "Government Center", but sad, lonely, and mature on "Hospital" ("there is pain inside/you can see it in my eyes"), "Someone I Care About" ("I don't want a girl just to fool around with"), and "Girl Friend" ("I walk through the Fenway/I have my heart in my hands"). He is also a geeky Lou Reed on "Pablo Picasso", which struts along at a cocksure midtempo pace, "She Cracked" ("she'd eat garbage, eat s**t, get stoned"), and "Modern World". (And like Fountains of Wayne after him, he makes his disdain for hippies obvious on "I'm Straight".) The music includes pre-New Wave, Steve Nieve-ish keyboards, sloppy Velvets-y guitar, and the welding of the two. Whether these songs are dated from 1972 - when they were first recorded - or 1976 - when they were first released, they manage to land smack dab (chronologically and stylistically) in the middle of proto-punk and New Wave.

If there were a Hall of Fame for cult rockers, Richman would surely be among its first inductees. His artistic and commercial success are inversely related, and he is best known to a mass audience as that guy in "There's Something About Mary" (or for the old school rock fans who haven't seen that movie, he is best known as the guy who is always described as the guy who is best known as that guy from "There's Something About Mary"). Keyboardist Jerry Harrison, on the other hand, is in the actual Rock 'N Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Talking Heads, and David Robinson, later the drummer for The Cars, may well end up there himself. (These two have been given a bit of poetic justice as members of more successful and well-known bands, but I am not sure what became of bassist Ernie Brooks.)

Although The Modern Lovers will never get the attention or credit they truly deserve, the fact that so many other artists are indebted to them is a start. It vicariously gives them a mass audience that they could never have on their own. Like The Sex Pistols and Television - both of whom could qualify as kindred spirits of the band - The Modern Lovers made a huge impact on the basis of a single album. But sometimes that is all it takes to change the world of popular music: sometimes someone needs to do something for the first time, just to show that it can be done. By this standard, the importance of The Modern Lovers first record should not be underestimated. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED."
Do Kids These Days Even Listen To This?
Scott B. Saul | 08/22/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)

"Alright, I'm 13, I HATE MODERN MUSIC WITH THE ACCEPTIONS OF THE DEADLY SNAKES AND THE KING KAHN AND BBQ SHOW. I love The Kinks, Billy Childish, The Mc5, and Syd Barrett. This album is one of the best I've ever heard. If you listen to The Modern Lovers, I really dig you considering you're in the "Kids Forum." Now If I could just get you guys into Vonnegut and Ginnsberg"
An Enduring Classic
Scott B. Saul | COOPER CITY, FL USA | 11/15/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This is a classic that, for some reason, is largely unknown.

In 1971, this group cut an un-pretentious album that echoed punk, new wave, alternative, and emo before anybody there was even a name or category for that type of music.

This is raw (real raw) rock and roll, earnest song writing and humble vocals. This had to be be dramatically different from anything else when it was recorded back in 1971.

What makes this album great is the energy of the songs and the sincere topics of the songs. Jonathan Richman's lyrics are about the common teenage nerd/geek/dweeb desiring to simply being a member of the in-crowd, fantasizing about getting the un-obtainable girl, or wanting for things to be the way they used to be (or should be). The songs are very optimistic.

What a strange yet enticing batch of songs;

"Pablo Picasso" states that the famous artist was not only cool and got the girls but also, unlike you and I, he was not an %@& hole.

"I'm straight" is about trying to get a girl who is dating "Hippy Johnny", who is a stoner. Why date him, he's always stoned, when she can date the narrator of the song? Because...he's straight.

Let's have a rockin party at the "Government Center" where the secretaries are always getting better.

"Girlfriend is a ballad where Jonathan Richman simply wants to have, not a good time, a one night stand or wild chicks, no...he just wants a basic girlfriend.

The highlight of the cd is "Roadrunner" a two chord rave up celebrating the joys of driving real fast, with the top down, WITH THE RADIO ON.

This album has it all...fuzzed out guitars, beefy hammond organs, crashing drums, lots of handclaps, and call and responses (it is no coincidence that it has a common denominator with the sound of the Velvet Underground's produced by John Cale.)

Although this is 34 years old, this music is indistinguishable from any raw, punky, alternative sound that you would hear today.

If your a fan of punk and want to see an obvious influence, this is it. If you love raw, roots music, this also is for you. If you like songwriting about the underdog doing the right thing, wanting to treat girls properly, then this is for you.

This strange band somehow, someway, without really even trying, recorded an album that was decades ahead of its time.

This cd should be much more prominent in the history of rock and roll."