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Run for Cover Lovers - The Difficult Nature of Interpersonal Relationships

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Artist: Run for Cover Lovers

Album: The Difficult Nature of Interpersonal Relationships

Label: Rockin' Pussy

Review date: Jan. 21, 2003

Sex and Cheap Hotels Make for Good Listening

When I first heard The Difficult Nature of Interpersonal Relationships, the first full-length album by the Run for Cover Lovers, my immediate emotional reaction was that of a deep longing to hear the Modern Lovers. Up until that point I was unsure of whether the similarities in the two bands’ names derived from coincidence, or was a conscious tribute by the Oakland-based foursome. In any case, the connection became quite evident. Just as Jonathan Richman sought to explore early-1970s Boston and its industrial surroundings in the seminal “Roadrunner,” all the while majestically screeching that he was “in love with Massachusetts, with the radio on” the Run for Cover Lovers also seemed geared up for mobile adventure. On the first track, “Transmission Standard,” the Run for Cover Lovers established that they were ready to cruise I-95 in search of a cheap hotel, communing with truck drivers “big and hairy” along the way, espousing the virtues of ice machines, all the while embracing that great American institution: the road trip.

Emulation of the Modern Lovers aesthetic should not be considered a bad thing (further inspection of the Run for Cover Lovers’ liner notes proved the band agreed with this sentiment). In many ways, Jonathan Richman’s demos in the early-1970s, which were not released until 1976 and 1981 (and only then hesitantly, as Richman had long since abandoned his pre-punk inclinations), set the standard in terms of a fuzzy, dirty sound that is simultaneously pure and beautiful. The Run for Cover Lovers should be applauded for achieving a similar mix in their own work, combining soaring organ accompaniments with rambling guitars and scratchy vocals.

Nevertheless, to label The Run for Cover Lovers a mere Modern Lovers tribute-band or mindless offspring would be erroneous. While their sound seems to be closely modeled on Richman’s, their material differs significantly. Foremost, the Modern Lovers recorded their demos in 1972 and 1973, long before irony reigned ubiquitously. Without placing judgment one way or the other, the Modern Lovers were sincere. Songs like “Girlfren’” and “Don’t Let Our Youth Go to Waste” were delivered with a type of straightforward anguish that now seems antediluvian.

Much of The Difficult Nature of Interpersonal Relationships could be described as quirky or frivolous, but in a fun, engaging way. A lot of the band’s material deals with sex (what do you expect, the album was released on the label Rockin’ Pussy Records), a subject which probably should not be taken very seriously. Creative silliness shines on tracks such as “Romeo,” which is presented from the perspective of the famous romantic’s other lover, the one smirking surreptitiously in the background while Juliet received all the overt attention. “Castro” issues a warning to guys not to bring their girls down to San Francisco’s famously hedonistic homosexual district, for fear that these girls might lose interest in men altogether. Competing for the coveted prize of songs with the most ridiculous lyrics are “Kubota Tractor” – “he’s got a Kubota tractor and he’s shredding grass / all he wants is barely legal ass,” and, from “Fat Bald Man” – “fat man you move me, do you want to do me / with you socks and sandals, we could cause a scandal.” Beulah Faye’s teasing voice (imagine a friend’s devastatingly beautiful older sister who carried with her years of sexual experience that she would never divulge to you) ensure that no one will mistake the songs for serious accounts of Americana.

On a couple tracks Faye does approach the music with gravitas. “Take Me” comes to mind, as the lyrics and Faye’s voice become downright melancholy and the Run for Cover Lovers magically transform themselves in Southern-sounding honky-tonk band with gospel intonations. Mike Shy, the Run for Cover Lovers’ bassist, takes the lead vocals on a couple tracks, which also contributes to the bands musical schizophrenia. On “Monoshock” and the title track, Shy sounds like a more sedate version of Ray Davies.

The Difficult Nature of Interpersonal Relationships was one of my favorite albums of 2002 (it was released in September – oh fuck, it is 2003 already). The clever lyrics, changing tempos, and fun-loving “dooby doo wah” choruses that appear on many tracks engendered in me a desire to approach this album with a degree of interest most new music does not inspire. The brilliant uses of organ on “Blind Guy Cherry Guy” and “I’m a Freak” warrant the purchase of this album alone. I eagerly await this band’s appearance on the East Coast, perhaps landing at some cheap hotel off the Cross Bronx Expressway, near my stretch of I-95.

By Andy Urban

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