A slightly remixed reissue of an album originally self-released (in a different sleeve) in 1988, Richard X. Heyman's Living Room!! is one of the D.I.Y. power pop highlights of the '80s, a decade that didn't really see many of those. Prior to the Internet-spawned growth of the pop underground later in the decade, it was all but impossible for an album like Living Room!! to reach its target audience, most of whom discovered even this reissue in the deep-discount remainder bins where it remained a staple through the first half of the '90s. Happily, that audience did find this album (and its major-label follow-up, 1991's Hey Man!) in quantities enough for Heyman's late-'90s material to reach the cult following he deserves. As the title suggests, these 14 songs were recorded in a living room studio in Manhattan, with Heyman himself playing all of the instruments except for three bass parts, a guitar line, and a piano and vocal part, courtesy of his wife, Nancy Leigh, on the wistful "Union County Line." The homemade provenance of the album keeps it from sounding too slick and studio-bound (like, unfortunately, Hey Man!), though Heyman's craft and care are obvious in the sweetly overdubbed vocals and just-so arrangements. Most importantly, however, this is a fine collection of songs, with non-clichéd melodies and hooks married to a more intelligent and intriguing collection of lyrics than the usual "oh girl I do/don't love you" power pop babble. The alienated "Call Out the Military" and the rattling "Wouldn't That Be a Riot" (possibly the first power pop song to make good lyrical use of the word "davening") are the best of the bunch, but only the sour-grapes whine of the anti-critic screed "Local Paper" falters lyrically. Living Room!! can be difficult to find, but it's worth the effort; this is one of the all-time great power pop CDs.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason