Rating: 9 (library disc)
I honestly have no idea how this album got into my collection. It was released by an ultra-indie label in New York (how indie? It’s mailing address is an apartment), yet somehow made it to the used record store in a mid-sized burg in central Michigan. And God knows what possessed me to buy it (the same day I bought Blind Faith). Probably the X. You just don’t run into too many people with the middle initial X (especially if their first name isn’t Francis.)
Yet, here it is, and it’s been one of my favorite records ever since that fateful day in the spring of 1990. Richard X. Heyman is a man of many talents, and they all shine here. Although he plays all the instruments, there aren’t any weak spots in the ensemble (it helps that his first career was as a drummer he played in Link Wray’s band). From boogie-woogie piano to chiming 12-string guitars, he’s a master. As a songwriter, he never stoops to cliché, but always delivers a fresh melodic idea coupled with insightful lyrics.
The reason I love this record so much is that it speaks to me: as a lonely romantic teenager, I didn't need any punk alienation or dance beats. I needed some rocking melodies that proclaimed the power of love. And Heyman delivers just that.
Living Room!! kicks off with “Call Out the Military”, with slashing open chords playing off a chunky bass, and an irresistible chorus (heck, every song here has two or three hooks.) Other highlights include “Learn to Love” with a yearning verse melody (it cleverly arcs toward the tonic, but never gets there until the climactic moment of the chorus), “Union County Line,” with its extremely tricky drum line, and “Palace of Time” which is practically anthemic in structure.
That’s not to say the rest is filler; aside from the blues “Deep Down in My Heart” (which still features an awesome piano line), each of these songs is uniquely engaging and executed with flair. Occasional lyrical embarrassments aside (“Local Paper” doth protest too much, considering how kind reviewers have been to Heyman), this album is the finest kind of pop music, and when I put it on the other day to find out whether I still liked it, I played it four times in a row. Thank goodness some benighted Central Michigan student decided he didn’t need it.
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