1992 Rounder Records album by Jonathan Richman. If you were to ask "What does it sound like?", I don't think I would be doing the artist or the work a disservice by answering that more than anything else it sounds like a garage pop record from the mid-60s. This is not to imply that it comes across as a pastiche, or that the singer is some cheap imitator -- Jonathan Richman plays in a style that is perfectly right and natural for him, and the resulting sound happens to resemble stuff that was floating around the charts at that time. Delightfully so.
Parties in the USA
The opening number, potentially the most difficult to swallow for someone unused to Jonathan's naive lyrics, surfs casually on a groove that harks back to "Hang On Sloopy". Jonathan believes that the problem with America these days is that we need more parties of the kind he remembers taking place back in 1965. In his mind at least, the turning point was the night some friends of his were having a party and the cops told everyone there to go home. And all they were doing was having coffee and talking! "Go home, go home, go home," Jonathan repeats, as if that fateful command sent everyone home from parties all across the country and they haven't ventured out since. While he clearly feels strongly about having more parties, he does acknowledge that advances in audio technology since the 60s has made some modern parties way too loud.
A rockin' instrumental that could have been written by the Ventures. The title refers to skydiving; instructor Jonathan warns all the new tandem jumpers that when the airplane door opens, they're gonna to be scared. And they are -- there's a clang (actually the door of a clothes dryer) and a rush of air and the musicians cry out in terror. But Jonathan goes ahead with the countdown and the band pours out of the plane with a cry of "Tandem Jump!".
You Can't Talk to the Dude
Moody, gentle, catchy, and probably the album's best song, the melody at times calls to mind the Zombies. Jonathan sings to someone who is living with a sullen and uncommunicative man; the strain is starting to take its toll on her. "You can't talk to the dude, and things will never be right/Until you go."
Jonathan pays tribute to the band that has always been a major influence on his music with this high-spirited rockabilly number. "How in the world do they make that sound? Velvet Underground!" His earnest, enthusiastic descriptions of the New York band and their sparse sound are right on, and the contrast between Jonathan's own approach and that of the group he idolizes are highly amusing. Halfway through Jonathan feels he just has to show you what they sounded like, so he drops right into a dead-on rendition of "Sister Ray". It's just the coolest thing.
I Was Dancing in the Lesbian Bar
An honest-to-goodness dance number. Jonathan is dancing alone in a club and isn't having a very good time. Then a group of kids invite him to the lesbian bar, which he finds is much better. The superiority of the lesbian bar over the first bar is emphasized throughout the song: for instance, in the first bar people were drinking sips, whereas in this bar they could shake their hips. While he seems reluctant to condemn the first bar altogether (it was, he says, "okay") the lesbian bar is the clear winner here.
Rooming House on Venice Beach
Jonathan reminisces about his old lodgings in Southern California, an old dump of a place where he never locked his door 'cause no one would want to steal anything he had. Though it was littered with hippie refuse, it sat at the edge of the ancient mysteries of the ocean. He hears the rent's gone way up since then.
That Summer Feeling
Answering the question "What would a collaboration between Lou Reed and the Beach Boys sound like?", this song begins as a simple, heartfelt ode to the pleasures of summer and becomes an obsessive meditation on how age makes one bitter and resentful. It's an odd little piece, and by the end one wishes Jonathan would lighten the heck up about this topic. You must make the most of "that summmer feeling" -- captured here in a series of images, a cop stopping a car full of teenagers, a flirtatious girl with a locket around her ankle -- because when you're older you won't have it anymore, and then you'll be sorry. He tells us this over and over again. Downer, man. But it's still a good song.
A grunion is a fish found off the California coast that swims close to the shore to spawn when the full moon comes. Somehow, this provides the title for this growling surf instrumental. Is Jonathan a spawning grunion? Is he out in the surf catching grunions? Is he surfing under the full moon, surrounded by grunions? Who knows? The plain truth is, this is a song that makes you want to turn it up loud and head for the beach.
A Higher Power
A happy number, punctuated by handclaps, about being in love. It asserts the existence of a supernatural force that plays a part in human affairs -- it must be true, because Jonathan was clearly made for this girl. Risking ridicule, he identifies this power as "magic". Lest his listeners condemn this as foolishness, he confides that he'd been with other girls before and it was painfully obvious he was not made for them. But he was made for this one! Look, magic.
Twilight in Boston
An authority on lonely walks, Jonathan remembers the walks he took around Boston at twilight. He paints the scenes vividly over a meandering, thoughtful melody, guiding the listener down the paths he used to roam. He evokes the falling of a still and quiet night, with the mosquitoes biting and the stars just beginning to come out.