Sean L. Maloney
The 33 1/3 series is always worth checking out and Sean L. Maloney’s discussion around the debut Modern Lovers album is a worthwhile read, more than that even – it’s one of the highlights of the series. He does a fine line in presenting the outsider status of Jonathan Richman and his Modern Lovers; given the album was recorded and shelved and eventually released nearly a half-decade later Maloney does the right lip-service to the music and gets inside the songs but he also gives you some feeling of understanding around how a record like this might come to be; the geographic tensions and influences, the outsider status, the outlier intentions of Richman.
It’s a must-read for Richman/Lovers fans – that should go without saying, it’s also a look at one of the blueprint-albums for indie rock; a piece of outsider-art that infiltrated the inner circle, dented the mainstream, bruised itself on punk and post-punk and still sounds refreshing today and crisp in a way that is only ever a compliment.
Obviously Richman’s reclusiveness means we cling to whatever facts (and gossip) we can find about him – but again Maloney takes a high road here, navigating around the music and the motivations rather than worrying about defining Richman as such; in fact it’s the music – and the understanding of where it comes from and how it was captured that gives us any understanding of Richman, in terms of a definition.
These slim volumes are always worth trying but this one is one of the best I’ve read. I’m always ready to listen to Richman, his Modern Lovers and solo recordings, but still I was back to the music because of this book. It’s a tightly drawn narrative that gives us some sense of place and purpose, that’s hardly ever easy to achieve.