Modern Lovers

REVIEW: “The Modern Lovers Live”


CD Art:

The Modern Lovers – Live

It does feature Jonathan Richman but on this live CD, The Modern Lovers get top billing recorded at London’s Hammersmith Odeon in 1977 by the Island Mobile Unit. Richman & band never caught on in the US as they did in the UK.

In my estimation, it may have been the eccentric near-novelty song titles. Since this era was heavy into disco, punk, or new wave — this doesn’t fit. A protopunk/indie-rock tag would better describe the showcase of this 1977 The Modern Lovers. In America, it was a hard sell with bands like Gruppo Sportivo, Talking Heads, The Tubes, Deaf School, The Ramones & Squeeze – all far more theatrical & creative to American audiences & radio. Richman did maintain notoriety in the music business that kept his name in the press.

At times they appeared fashionably punk, but their early 60s veneer was closer to the pub rock of Brinsley Schwartz & Nick Lowe. But punk? Usually, you think of The Sex Pistols & The Clash when it comes to punk – this music isn’t exactly on that stove.

Produced by Beserkley Records founder Matthew King Kauffman & R&R Hall of Famer Kenny Laguna – the 9-cut reissue Live (Drops Oct 21–Omnivore) has its moments of excitement The band certainly had its variants, attraction & entertaining value. This live performance is captured quite well by fans of the band. Richman is in top form & it will put you in a better mood than you were in after listening to the nightly news.

Instrumentals like “Egyptian Reggae” & “South American Folk Song,” are good but they do have reminiscent guitar lines made famous by groups like The Chantay’s (“Pipeline”), the Ventures & The Pyramids (“Penetration”).

But The Modern Lover’s playing is quite good – no denying that. As obvious as the musicianship is it’s evident many songs in this set are more suited to children. It’s juvenile but entertaining. The performance borders at times on doo-wop/early 60s dance pop. “Ice Cream Man,” is carried way too far – in its 8-minute plus stop-start-stop live performance. It’s charming at first with audience participation but on a recording the never-ending showcase is laborious. You had to be there. Many songs didn’t age well either so the appreciation is more nostalgic since the songs still sound like good children’s songs (about insects, airplanes & dinosaurs).

The final song is a Modern Lover’s jewel – “The Morning of Our Lives” – this is the Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers I knew. Wonderful.

Players: Jonathan (guitar/vocals), Leroy Radcliffe (guitar/vocals), D. Sharpe (drums/percussion/vocals) & Asa Brebnar (bass/vocals). Highlights – “Egyptian Reggae,” “South American Folk Song,” “New England,” & “The Morning of Our Lives.”

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Enjoy our previous coverage here: REVIEW: Jonathan Richman Rock ‘n’ Roll With The Modern Lovers

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