Monday, February 25, 2008

No. 381: The Modern Lovers

Band: The Modern Lovers
Album: The Modern Lovers
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Jonathan Richman's hopeless devotion to the Velvet Underground is well-known and his youthful exuberance was able to shine through on the record.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: I don't totally get it, so I'd be lying if I said I think it's the greatest thing in the world. I respect it, but I don't love it.
Best song: "She Cracked" and "Pablo Picasso" are great.
Worst song: I don't love "Girlfriend."
Is it awesome?: It's close, but it is derivative.

Influence is a weird thing. Like duplicating cassettes, each subsequent copy seems to lose a little. That's kind of how I look at the Modern Lovers record; The Velvets were great, but the Modern Lovers are less great.

Jonathan Richman is a wonderful songwriter and certainly was a precocious young man, writing and recording most of the album as a teenager. The album's production matches its influence, as John Cale recorded many of the tracks.

(The history of the album is well-documented by our good friend Wikipedia.)

What struck me is how the band was a minor league of sorts for post-punk bands. Richman himself had a decent solo career and kept the band's moniker into the late 70s. Keyboard player Jerry Hairston went on to play in the Talking Heads and David Robinson was the drummer for the Cars. That's pretty impressive.

Still, the record is full of youthful, pre-punk fury. While it's mostly copped from the Velvets, it remains a pretty amazing record.

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