May 1, 2003

Ed's Underground: Modern Lovers

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Could anybody possibly resist this record? I think it’s pretty much impossible; the sheer rock n’ roll joy that Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers brought to their debut back in 1976 ensures that it’s still completely contagious today. The opening blast of “Roadrunner” remains the best road trip tune of all time, as Richman cries, “Roadrunner, roadrunner, goin’ faster miles an hour.” The Modern Lovers took the music of the Velvet Underground and the Stooges, removed the streetwise sleaziness, and injected it with a sense of youth and fun. Richman was the nice guy who could never get any chicks, a topic he returned to again and again in his songs.

The Modern Lovers’s debut is a super-charged burst of adolescent proto-punk, a document of a lyricist on the brink of his own adulthood. Richman is balanced between the “old world” of his parents and the new, more confusing world he finds himself a part of. On “I’m Straight,” he proudly declares that he doesn’t do drugs, and “Dignified & Old” finds him imagining himself old and dispensing wisdom to his kids; not exactly typical topics for a rock song.

But that’s just what makes this record so interesting: Richman’s energy and na