Her Mystery Not of High Heels and Eye Shadow
Love him or hate him, you’ve gotta hand it to man-child Jonathan Richman for staying true to his art. His 17th album since 1977 pretty much sounds like the other 16. He even rerecords “Give Paris One More Chance” — a typical Richman tactic — along with ending this remarkably short 32-minute disc with five songs sung in Spanish, complete with bossa nova beats. Accompaniment is characteristically sparse with rudimentary percussion and woodwinds from Tom Waits’ crony (and old Tin Huey horn-man for those from Ohio) Ralph Carney. It all adds up to another pleasant stroll down to Jonathan’s playhouse, but little more. There’s certainly nothing offensive about his schtick of lilting pop-love-songs crooned with the seriousness of a nasal Tony Bennett, but at this stage in his career, it comes dangerously close to treading water in a lukewarm bathtub. Even fans like me are getting itchy for something/anything different from Richman, although this music is so darn nice, it’s impossible not to love the guy. Which was what propelled him to semi-stardom after his small but integral part in There’s Something About Mary. Things begin encouragingly with the wacky and peppy title track, helped immensely by offbeat lyrics and Carney’s baritone sax. But after a few more appetizing pop songs along those lines, it’s back to the Richman rut of rudimentary love tunes sung like he’s sleepwalked into the studio, which continues for the album’s abbreviated length. Those who are new to the Richman mystique would be better served starting their collection with 1998’s Ric Ocasek-produced I’m So Confused or 1996’s Surrender To Jonathan, which at least includes his minor classic “I Was Dancing at the Lesbian Bar.” There’s nothing nearly as eye-popping here.
Vapor Records: http://www.vaporrecords.com/jonathan.htm