Of the major pre-punk bands of the late '60s and early '70s (such as the Velvet Underground, the MC5, the Stooges, and the New York Dolls), the Modern Lovers probably seemed the most eccentric -- while the aforementioned groups each took a very individual approach to rock & roll, they were still rock bands who worked hard to deliver on stage for an audience. Jonathan Richman, on the other hand, was just as likely to let his bruised and bleeding heart hang on his sleeve for five long, slow minutes of "Hospital" or "Dance With Me" as he was to rip it up on a tune like "Roadrunner" or "Someone I Care About." Precise Modern Lovers Order combines a ten-song set the Modern Lovers played in Berkley, CA, during a 1972 West Coast tour with a half-dozen tracks recorded at student mixers at Harvard University between 1971 and 1973, and the audiences seem uniformly befuddled throughout this disc -- there aren't any audible catcalls of disapproval, but no one seems to know how to react to Richman's vivid tales of teenage angst. And the Modern Lovers sound a good bit more stark and extreme in these performances than they did on their few studio recordings (hard to imagine, but that first album sounds slick by comparison), though Jonathan Richman's vocals are strikingly impassioned, and the band supports him with a clean, sympathetic simplicity (Jerry Harrison and David Robinson, later to play with Talking Heads and the Cars, respectively, were still members of the Modern Lovers at this point, and future Real Kids leader John Felice is on the Harvard-recorded tracks). Precise Modern Lovers Order captures a great and groundbreaking band blazing trails the hard way on stage; it's worth owning as psychodrama, living history, and great music.
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AllMusic Review by Mark Deming