Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.


The Modern Lovers

Ohhhhh shit, you guys, I think I'm in love! But wait—it's not gonna be one of those columns. It's more complicated than that. First, the Modern Lovers are adorable—they were fronted by Jonathan Richman, a talk-sing crooner of the first order. And a lot of it is about love—mopey, moony love. He's a moony crooner.

And a kidder! Who can seriously call out, early in a song, "I'm in love with Massachusetts"? Only Jonathan Richman. He still gets jealous of your old boyfriends in the suburbs, sometimes. He can't stand what you do, but he's in love with your eyes. He loves his parents. He's obsessed with the 1950s. He's going "faster miles an hour" down the highway at night, with the radio on so he doesn't feel alone.

Richman's good-naturedly off-key voice sounds quite a bit like Lou Reed's. (Tangent: If you, like me, are a music idiot who has tried in the past to educate yourself without the music staff of an alt-weekly giving you direction, maybe you've discovered Lou Reed already? I bought that one banana album by the Velvet Underground, and I just couldn't love it. But I knew that was me failing, so I kept trying, and then I found Transformer. It's really good! If you are a neophyte trying to find an album to love, try Transformer, really. Listen to it in the car at night.)

But Richman's fumbling sweetness is also dark. He comes across all helpless and so aching, full of need. "When you get out of the hospital/Let me back into your life." The kind of guy with a hole in his heart; he just wants you to put your hand over it for a while. Then: He never ever lets go of your wrist, and that shit is awful. (God damn, is it hard to break that grip.) So after a couple listens to this, I got off-kilter. The heartsickness was grating. I had to take a break.

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Luckily, The Modern Lovers is mostly such a fun goof-wagon that you don't need to analyze every grain for layered meaning. C'mon! "Well, some people try to pick up girls and get called asshole/This never happened to Pablo Picasso." And let's be honest: Yeah, that one song is called "Astral Plane," but pretend you don't know the song name and listen carefully. You know what you (well, I) hear? "Ice-cream plane." (At least for the first verse.) Yeeeah. That is the best plane! Let's go! Jonathan Richman is your secret night boyfriend climbing fences to get to you and keeping a journal. He'll totally take you out for ice cream in a diner.

I give this an "I wanna go to the ice-cream plane" out of 10. recommended