Jonathan Richman

Her Mystery Not of High Heels and Eye Shadow

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Jonathan Richman's 19th album doesn't sport the raw passion of his debut with the Modern Lovers, nor does it showcase his vastly underestimated songwriting skills as superbly as prior solo albums like I, Jonathan and You Must Ask The Heart. It's just another exploration of the lovable troubadour's longstanding obsessions: the places he's been ("Springtime in New York," "Give Paris One More Chance"), the pitfalls of love ("Couples Must Fight," "I Took a Chance on Her"), the Spanish language (the last four songs, including a remake of the classic "Vampire Girl" en Español). For fans, that should be enough, though even the diehards will have to admit that this is one of his slighter efforts. Two of the 14 tracks on this 32-minute album are instrumentals and an additional four are in Spanish. Moreover, the lyrics to several songs ("Me and Her Got a Good Thing Goin' Baby," "My Love for Her Ain't Sad") are even more simplistic and repetitious than usual. That said, Richman never fails to charm. The title track is pure magic; its moonstruck words and gently swinging sound, even its cumbersome title, posit an alternative universe in which rock & roll only became more innocent and naïve after the '50s. "Springtime in New York," despite its sunny optimism, is clear-eyed and astute in its observations ("On First Avenue, a couple is breaking up/Eviction too/They must be shaken up/But I love springtime in New York/I do"). And the loopy enthusiasm of "Give Paris One More Chance" beats every tourist bureau jingle ever concocted ("Because the home of Piaf and Charles Aznavour/Has done something right and shall do something more"). Richman and his longtime drummer, Tommy Larkins, are joined here by Tom Waits associates Stephen Hodges (percussion) and Ralph Carney (woodwinds), as well as a pianist and string section, giving the album a warm, inviting feel. While far from a masterpiece, in its own way Her Mystery Not of High Heels and Eye Shadow is a portrait of the artist staying true to his unique and uncompromising vision.

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