Jonathan Richman: I'm So Confused

Jonathan Richman: I'm So Confused

Following his performance as a roving Greek chorus in There's Something About Mary, Jonathan Richman finally has a marketing hook with which to hock his gentle songs. Problem is, that hook is coming 20+ years into his career, and if Richman hasn't caught on yet, no amount of good publicity will boost his profile. Uphill battle or no, plenty of people hope his new Ric Ocasek-produced record will be the one to finally connect with the masses. I'm So Confused would have made a fine alternate title for Richman's influential debut with The Modern Lovers, a 1976 record that put the geek into geek-rock and inspired dozens of college dorks to pick up guitars and sing goofy love songs. Richman has never matched that masterpiece of self-deprecating humor and innocent strife, but that's not to say he hasn't tried: I'm So Confused is his 17th record, and if this isn't the one that finally puts him over, it's still pretty nice. Backed by a spare rhythm section of former Bad Brains bassist Darryl Jenifer (!) and longtime drummer Tommy Larkins, the 47-year-old Richman proves he's just as comfortable with adolescent yearnings now as he was back in the day. If that means "Nineteen In Naples" sounds like it was pulled from the first Violent Femmes album, then so be it: The man deserves a slice of the pie he baked. I'm So Confused isn't a grand stylistic excursion—drum-and-bass with Jonathan, anyone?—but it does reinforce the axiom that sometimes simple is better. Richman may have milked more out of simplicity than any other performer, but his cute piffle is as charming now as it was 20 years ago.

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