Modern Scream

Lily Tomlin

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Modern Scream Review

by Lindsay Planer

This is the third and final title from Lily Tomlin's association with Polydor Records in the early to mid-'70s. There are distinct discrepancies between Modern Scream (1975) and her previous two efforts, This Is a Recording (1971) and the follow-up, And That's the Truth. Whereas both of those LPs documented her one-woman show, this long-player combines studio and stage material into a sort of stream of consciousness concept album. As the cover art suggests, Tomlin's thematic satire is aimed squarely at the cult of celebrity and the resulting tabloid-ization of public personalities. The setting is Tomlin's house as she readies for a magazine writer who is researching an article. Before the reporter arrives, Tomlin is joined by "Lucille the Rubber Freak," a neighbor who has traded alcoholism for an addiction to eating rubber. Once the interview begins, other Tomlin personas are summoned, including the proto-preppy "Suzie Sorority" and the whimsically candid "Edith Ann," both of which are derived from snippets of live nightclub recordings. "Dr. Dacey" is a fast-talking TV self-help guru who founded the Fundamental and Developmental psych movement, which is appropriately enough "better known as FAD." There are also segments with "Mrs. Beasley," a product-hocking housewife who is perhaps best known for her standard introduction: "Hi. I am not a professional actress, I am a real person like yourself." There are also brief encounters with Ma Bell's finest representative "Ernestine," as well as the irrepressible soul-saving antics of "Sister Boogie Woman." This freewheeling radio evangelist's primary concerns are less a matter of heaven and hell than a plea for every man, woman, and child to get reborn with the life-affirming spirit of "boogie." While somewhat a more tedious listen, this disc is recommended for those interested in hearing some of Tomlin's lesser-known routines. After several decades out of print, issued Modern Scream on CD in 2003.

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