Friday, October 24

It's not all "I'm a Little Dinosaur"

Steve Rosen of CityBeat wrote a great article on the oft-ignored depth of Jonathan's music. He makes note of Jonathan's cutesy stuff, and how fans of the original Modern Lovers always felt cheated that Jonathan stopped being angry at the world and started noticing bugs. But most of the article brings up examples of Jonathan's stuff that is hardly surface or silly, but often gets overlooked. Jonathan, I think at least, has merit as a poet, and I've actually used him in serious business papers for my professors before. Well played, Mr. Rosen.

Richman has developed a sizable and underappreciated repertoire of songs expressing an adult’s wise, thoughtful and poetic take on love and the passage of time. They often still manage to connect with his memories of childhood, which gives them an extraordinary perspective that few singer-songwriters can manage.

Richman’s oft-recorded “That Summer Feeling” is an example. It’s lyrically playful in listing alluring, enticing images associated with summer — and thus, symbolically, with one’s prime. But he keeps stepping out of the mood to caution, in that choked-back voice of his, “That summer feeling is going to haunt you one day in your life.”

The Surrender album, one of his best, includes “My Little Girl’s Got a Full Time Daddy Now” and the extraordinary “Floatin’ ” (“I had a dream about floatin’/ Out there on a raft in the ocean/ My my family far behind/ Why are they so hard to find?”).

The lovely “Springtime in New York,” from the Her Mystery album that came out right after 9/11, remarkably takes us through the stages of a couple’s relationship with spare but lucid observations about the East Village in spring.

On his latest album, this year’s excellent Because Her Beauty Is Raw and Wild, Richman moves from manchild to solemn grown son in a short but emotionally open song about spending time with his dying mother, “As My Mother Lay Lying.”

Playing acoustic guitar at his gentlest, he brings far more honesty and unsentimental courage to the subject of familial mortality than just about any songwriter. Yet at the same time, sad as it is, the song is also written with powerful clarity and a hard-earned sense of acceptance. It is, hard to believe, beautiful.

Read the rest over at CityBeat

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