Outdoor Summer Vinyl Series: The Original Modern Lovers

Band: The Modern Lovers
Year: 1981
Label:
 BOMP! Records

The Modern Lovers, I tell you, if you didn’t find this one among your dad’s record stacks plus you have no idea what these dudes were even about, I’ll try to explain a little bit. The back cover liner notes by Kim Fowley and Jonathan Richman shed size six font mounds of text, but basically here goes: Fowley comes upon The Modern Lovers, brings them to a studio, and the group finishes these recordings in one day under Fowley utterances like “think Sun Records! Think history!” Says a New York Rocker critic, had these recordings come out in 1972, “it would have changed everything that happened in the ’70s.” Richman – who is aided on here by Jerry Harrison, David Robinson, and Ernie Brooks – is a good deal more unassuming when it comes to The Original Modern Lovers. He notes that this LP was neither truly recorded in the Spring of ’72 as is advertised nor all recorded in a single session. I remember listening to this outside last summer (I believe for the first time… at least in a long while) and my mom commented ‘who is that kid singing? Sounds awful.’ Sheez I said, if this sounds awful how do I sound? She said better. I guess that is partially what moms are for. To me OML is gold. These songs aren’t ’60s garage fratters, they aren’t heavy, certainly not pop-polished. Instead, they stand firmly on their own, some truly rockin’ numbers like the MassFamous ‘Road Runner #1/#2’ with references to Stop and Shop, ‘Astral Plane’ and ‘Girlfren’. Inspiration – Iggy and Lou – that’s the inspiration Richman cites. You’ll hear figments of those guys on here. But beyond that, The Original Modern Lovers is an “i don’t care what anyone thinks, i’m gonna have fun and do what I do in my own way, with my voice and the tons of inflections and manipulations that I can think of” situation. That way of thinking is wilder than a lot of music that sounds wilder, it allows wasteful youths to sucker in rock ‘n roll history without taking abridged shortcuts. A silent trailblazer into some DIY musical landscape that started with punk and runs riot today. I like that people could be fronting all like what is this shit, he doesn’t know how to sing, is this even music. Jonathan Richman is content, somewhere. I’m down with that.

Classic Album Review: The Original Modern Lovers


Band: The Modern Lovers
Release: 1981
Label: Bomp! Records

Side One
1. “Road Runner #1” – A-
2. “She Cracked” – B+
3. “Astral Plain” – A
4. “Walk up the Street” – A

Side Two
1. “I Wanna Sleep In Your Arms” – A-
2. “Don’t Let Our Youth Go To Waste” – B+
3. “Dance With Me” – B
4. “Girlfren” – A+
5. “Road Runner #2” – A+

Comments: These recordings were made in the summer of 1972, before the punk rock explosion. Like the proto-punk of the Velvet Underground, Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers created pretty basic rock and roll — talk and roll, I’d call it. Mumbling, attempted singing, uncomplicated musical structures. “Road Runner” is no shrills Boston — mentioning Stop n Shop and Route 93 among other things. “Walk up the Street” speaks of waking up in the Back Bay. “Girlfren” has the MFA thrown in the mix. Flows so good. What a song, for real, though!  On this tune particularly, the guitars and tone in general call to mind a future Bomp! release — Black Lips! On the back cover, Richman states “if it wasn’t for Iggy and Lou Reed this record wouldn’t have existed.” Sounds about right. “Astral Plain” is more Iggy than anything. Perhaps though, if this record hadn’t existed many underground bands wouldn’t exist. In fact, the inspiration that this record had on future records probably spills over into the realm of Beat Happening and such.

Grade: A-