Jonathan Richman, I’m So Confused (Vapor)

Posted December 31st, 1998 by admin

Jonathan Richman
I'm So Confused
By: Eric G.

Having made appearances in two Farrelly brothers films, Kingpin and There’s Something About Mary, Jonathan Richman’s hokey-pop-folkie shtick is reaching a far greater audience, but that has done nothing to change Richman’s simple outlook on life. Acoustic guitar, bass and drums still accompany his over-intellectualized, everyday musings. He does incorporate sporadic synthesizer bits played by producer Ric Ocasek (an ironic pairing since both men shared a drummer in David Robinson, who went from Richman’s first band The Modern Lovers to Ocasek’s monumentally successful The Cars), but contrary to many complaints the presence of keyboards does not in any way hinder Richman’s charm or sparse sound. Richman is known as a live performer because of his tendency to stop in the middle of a song and tell a story and then pick up right where he left off, but his records do not suffer from any lack of spontaneity.

Richman’s voice resembles a stopped-up David Byrne, and his guitar playing is deliberately simple and catchy, matching his witty and perversely self-deprecating storytelling. Richman’s cartoonish warblings and minimalist aesthetic has lasted two decades worth of material. His experimentation has led him to record albums entirely in Spanish or to re-work his own songs to sound like country spoofs. He has garnered the stature of a cult icon that has afforded him a devout following over the years.

I’m So Confused is Jonathan Richman at his best. Every song is a classic piece of bizarre wit: “I want to open up a lunchbox and find a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in there just like when I was six years old and someone loved me” (“Love Me Like I Love”). “True Love Is Not Nice”, which was featured in Something About Mary, is an offbeat and lovelorn ode to innocence and experience. Even the ballads are amusing: “Affection” features Richman carrying on a puzzling conversation with himself to let the air out of his seemingly lesson-heavy fable. I’m So Confused deserves whatever attention may come its way after Richman’s brief, accidental brush with the mainstream.

Tags: review