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Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers – Modern Lovers 88 LP reissue (Rounder/Craft)

25 September 2022

This sky-blue vinyl reissue arrived for the Spring 2022 Record Store Day. As expected, the album’s charm hinges upon Richman’s knack for writing songs that radiate innocence and simple fun. Most of this joyful sense finds bliss in the adult world as heard on relentlessly upbeat songs like “Dancin’ Late at Night,” “Gail Loves Me,” and “I Love Hot Nights.” However, Richman dives fully into his fountain of youth during “I Have Come Out to Play,” racing through a summer evening in his neighborhood on a bicycle with squirt gun in hand. Richman pays sweet tribute to his favorite Marx brother on the calypso-infused “When Harpo Played His Harp.” Johnny Avila’s drumming borrows enough from Polynesian and island rhythms to keep the party on its feet and swinging. The band celebrates a welcoming and utopian setting in “New Kind of Neighborhood.” Brennan Totten’s caffeinated rhythm and lead guitar joins Richman’s to keep the sparks flying. The aforementioned “Dancin’ Late at Night” chugs along like a blend of Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, and the Ventures. “Circle I” goes full-on surf rock in its description of what is apparently a nudist agricultural cooperative ranch. And why not? Richman’s raspy saxophone punctuates the festive “California Desert Party,” creating a similar mood to those beach party movies taking place an hour or so west during the ‘60s. Rather than sounding empty, the lack of bass guitar in the arrangements makes these songs sound primal and alive. Richman gently sings a wordless lullaby during “The Theme from Moulin Rouge,” bringing Modern Lovers 88 to an unexpectedly wistful conclusion. (