From the Vaults

Jonathan Richman, Party of One: Hangin’ out on your couch with an ex-Modern Lover

having-a-party-with-jonathan-richmanJONATHAN RICHMAN – Having a Party With Jonathan Richman (Cheree ’91): Not much of a party, unless you think up-close-and-personal with the ex-Modern Lover is a rollicking good time. Having a Party is little more than Jonathan and his guitar, some of the songs live, others in studio. Regardless, it exudes his love for silly rockabilly and trolling rock & roll, darting back and forth between the playfully humorous (“She Doesn’t Laugh at My Jokes,” which streamlines corn like “I think I’ll call up somebody intelligent, maybe Albert Camus / And say, ‘I got some hot hot jokes I want to try on vous”) to the slightly serious (witness “Monologue About Bermuda,” in which Jonathan recounts falling in love with the juiced and loose and tropically-tinged Bermuda Strollers, a band of forty-year-old calypso dudes, which proved to be the catalyst for the dissolution of the Modern Lovers). On a couple numbers he starts with rolling riff and moves into hyperspeed (“Cappuccino Bar” and “At Night”), on others he playfully satirizes the nostalgic imagery that accompanies his version of 50s and 60s rock (“The Girl Stands Up to Me Now” and “Our Swingin’ Pad”). It’s simple and can get easily swallowed up in the vastness of his discography, but it marks an interesting transition in his work. For most of the 80s, Richman was looking for a way to break free from the Modern Lovers, and once he went solo it didn’t take him long to cut a country record. After Having a Party, he went to California and cut a lo-fi effort in a basement, I, Jonathan, one of his best, and going forward he’d gradually get more electric and try his hand at Spanish balladry. It’s an easy, peaceful record, in the sense that on his own and in front of the audience, Richman sounds relaxed, comfortable, and eager to entertain. Having a Party is a quiet party, sure, one reserved for your living room. But it’s a fun one. A MINUS


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