Monday, April 26, 2004

More Twin/Tone

For the last week or so, I've been going on about the treasures of the Twin/Tone label's website. One of the biggest surprises for me was the fact that Jonathan Richman's Rockin' and Romance is available on CD via the site. You probably know that that album was vinyl/cassette-only, and it's been out of print for a long time. It's one of his "childlike innocence" records, with songs about UFO's, jeans, chewing gum wrappers and so on.

I like it for some boring reasons: because I think the songwriting is especially strong, because the lyrics are fairly clever, because even the a cappella track has a decent melody and a nice hook with the "boom-ba-boom-ba, boom-ba-boom-ba, boom-ba-boom-ba, boom!" Here's my thought regarding the post-Modern Lovers albums: a lot of people who I know seem to associate them with events in their lives, and then prefer the album that has the best associations. For me, Rockin' and Romance conjures up memories of my last month-or-so in high school, when I had finished all of my AP classes [non-US readers: these are classes that prepare you for a standardized, "college level" test. The tests come before the end of the school year. At my school, AP classes ended after the test] and pretty much had to report to school only to take gym. I spent the rest of the days lying in the sun, learning to play guitar, and (often) listening to a tape of this album. Good times.

I also learned two important lesson from Rockin' and Romance: vinyl records warp when you leave them in your car on a hot day and if you keep your unlabeled cassettes in a big pile in a milk crate, you'll lose track of them. Rockin' and Romance doesn't sell for all that much on eBay, but I've been waiting for a CD reissue, and then just last week I discovered that that had already happened. Hoorah!

Here's My Jeans (the song's use of the word "bum" irritated Christgau, but I don't mind, and I dispute the Dean's assertion that "tush" would be an improvement), the informative and surprisingly catchy-for-what-it-is Walter Johnson, and finally a song about Vincent Van Gogh, who may or may not have been called an asshole. Guess we'll never know, 'cause this song doesn't get into that.

The rest of the album is equally charming and goofy and sweet. Nice backing band, with a lot of small touches like handclaps and harmonies to flesh out the arrangements. I support you if another one of his albums is your favorite, but this one is mine (not including the first Modern Lovers album, of course). On Allmusic, Richie Unterberger rates it as Richman's best 80's album, and I mention that because tomorrow I'm featuring a band that Mr. Unterberger ranks as an overlooked treasure of the 80's.

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