Wednesday, September 1, 2010

381. The Modern Lovers. Didn't see that coming.

Album: The Modern Lovers
Artist: The Modern Lovers
Year: 1976
Genre: Rock

Tracks

  1. Roadrunner
  2. Astral Plane
  3. Old World
  4. Pablo Picasso
  5. She Cracked
  6. Hospital
  7. Someone I Care About
  8. Girlfriend
  9. Modern World

They say not many people bought the Velvet Underground's debut album but that everyone who did started a band. I'd previously though this was just a very cute thing to say but having listened to a lot of the albums on this list I'm beginning to think it's based on actual research. I probably should have included an "influenced by VU" tag on these posts so I could immediately bring them up at will. Reed and Co can comfortably take the crown of "most influential artists" so far in the countdown.

Some of the VU's disciples are The Modern Lovers, a pre-punk band who barely troubled the record buying charts when they finally released their debut album but whose influence is so far-reaching someone is probably claiming everyone who bought their album started a band of their own. You might not have heard of them (few have) but apparently they've had a huge impact on the rock world. Or the Ramones are big fans, which as we've discovered already, is enough to get you into the countdown.

The most interesting thing about The Modern Lovers' album is that it wasn't released it escaped. It has a troubled life and it's appearance here is a triumph that nobody would ever have anticipated. In 1971 the band, who had been playing gigs around Boston, entered a recording studio to put down some demo tracks for what would hopefully become their debut album. The following year they finally got around to entering the studio again this time under the guidance of John Cale from the Velvet Underground. Again they produced some demos. Another later session generated more demo recordings. Before the band could finally reconvene in a studio somewhere and actually record a proper album they decided to go their separate ways, which is generally considered a good career move but only after you've actually released an album for your fans to treasure. The Modern Lovers never got around to producing final tracks so their brief career was destined to be ignored by the record buying public.

It took four years for a record executive at their old record label to decide their demos were worth an album release in their own right. He cobbled together nine tracks from the three different sessions and put it out as The Modern Lovers self titled debut. While it didn't storm it's way onto the charts it was lauded by record critics, who nobody ever pays the slightest bit of attention to.

The end result is an album that was never intended to be released. Unlike every other studio release on this list the sounds on the album were never intended for the public's ears. It's the sound of a band laying down demos to give other people an indication of what they could record professionally if given the chance. There are no overdubs it's basically raw and live in the studio. It poses an interesting question- would the album be better or worse if they'd had the chance to record the album properly? Would they re-record vocals? Would they add some extra horns? Perhaps throw in a backing vocal? Would it lose all it's charm and appeal to TML's small but dedicated fanbase (35 reviews on amazon) or would it have given them mainstream success? Or possibly both?

Personally I'm no great fan of The Modern Lovers. Their songs are a bit repetitive and bland for my liking. They're definitely groundbreaking, you wouldn't think these tracks were recorded in 1971 but they need something more than a surprising time period to make them appeal to modern ears.

Highlight: Girlfriend
Lowlight: Astral Plane

Influenced by: The Velvet Underground (yet again)
Influenced: REM


Favourite Amazon Customer Review Quote: This album is the historical equivalent of finding a book describing the rise and fall of the third reich with a publishing date in the 13th century. Let's talk about the Halo Benders, Marci Playground and Cool Yeah. But this album predates these groups by 25 years. Jonathon email me, I owe you lunch............

That's brilliant. It's short, witty, references obscure bands and even finishes with a lunch invitation.

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