If your fame’s largely based on brief appearances in that Ben Stiller movie properly pairing cum and hair, it might be a bummer. Compounding fate’s odd sense of humor, if your sidemen go on to perform with the Talking Heads, the Cars and Arthur Russell, your own solo career might also be a bummer. Unless you’re Jonathan Richman.
Wrangling production assistance from the likes of Kim Fowley and John Cale while still attempting to make the Modern Lovers a viable rock band, Richman somehow ingratiated himself to the rock cognoscenti to the extent that innovation no longer mattered at all. His music, in some ways, has regressed since the heady times yielding stunning, if not stilted, compositions like “She’s Cracked” and “I’m Straight,” the latter occasionally functioning as a vehicle for chastising bassist Ernie Brooks for his indulgence in weed.
Moving past the obvious Lou Reed guitar-apprenticeship, Richman’s worked in folksier terms since the mid-seventies, issuing countless long-playing albums and clocking just about no chart success. Remaining something of a cult hero based on his first band’s combination of rock stuffs, art-world placating, and overly personal lyrics, Richman tours regularly, doesn’t give interviews and apart from actually performing seems to shun everything related to having a show-business career. But that’s what the man does. There might not be a more distinctive or singular personality treading similar territory. Surely, he’s aware of the Modern Lovers’ historical cache, which partially allows for such anti-social behaviors. No excuses need be made for a man capable of turning in variegated lines like, “Eat shit and get stoned” or “I go to bakeries all day long/There’s a lack of sweetness in my life.” That’s pop genius. (Dave Cantor)
May 8 at the Hideout, 1354 West Wabansia, (773)227-4433. 8pm. $18.