The Austin Chronicle

Get Your Jojo Working

By Ken Lieck, February 8, 2002, Music

Local Jonathan Richman fans have been somewhat spoiled in the past few years, with the founder of the Modern Lovers pretty much guaranteed to do at least two or three Austin dates a year. He's back at the Continental Club this Friday and Saturday, hot on the heels of Her Mystery Not of High Heels and Eye Shadow, and if you have breath left after reciting the album title aloud, you can probably handle a smoke-filled nightclub better than the artist himself. This space was originally slated to contain an interview with the laconic tunesmith, but his shyness put the kibosh on that notion. I shouldn't find that surprising, seeing as back in the mid-Eighties the crew of my public access show tried to ambush him with a video camera, and he agreed to the interview only on the condition that he do it in mime so he wouldn't have to talk to us. Unfortunately, trying the same trick in print would only result in a blank space on this part of the page. Instead, my editor made me write a record review of his new CD.

Jonathan Richman

Her Mystery Not of High Heels and Eye Shadow (Vapor) A cursory look at the new album from Modern Lovers founder Jonathan Richman makes it clear that changes have occurred since the Ric Ocasek-produced I'm So Confused marked the first new disc from Jojo since his appearance in There's Something About Mary renewed his status as a musical novelty. That release turned off many longtime fans, for whom any production was overproduction. Her Mystery is a more personal effort, inasmuch as any Richman album can be more personal than the last. The title (unwieldy, specific), the packaging (cardboard, no wasteful crystal box), and the illustrations (artsy, minimalist) all speak volumes that the music itself echoes, as Richman bemoans such sad truths as "Couples Must Fight," whilst confessing to eternal optimism ("I Took a Chance on Her" and "My Love for Her Ain't Sad"). There's more instrumentation than before, subtle as it may be, with brassmaster Ralph Carney, former Modern Lover Curly Keranan, plus woodwinds, viola, cello, and the works making their appearance on the disc's march-heavy arrangements. That's right, march as in Sousa. The percussion is dominant on this set, perhaps as payment for drummer Tommy Larkins being Richman's only accompaniment for a number of years now, and surprisingly, it's not nearly as intrusive as it seems. The assumed goal of making the listener want to dance even as they weep over Jonathan's unrequited feelings isn't quite realized, but the effect isn't all that far from successful. Add points for Jojo giving us a full LP (10 songs) in English before going off on his multilingualism fancy, which accounts for the last four songs on the CD. Muy bueno.


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