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Article from Dot Music

September 1996

 

Two years ago, everything seemed to be going Evan Dando's way. He'd just scored his second UK hit album with Come On Feel The Lemonheads, which followed 1992's near-classic It's A Shame About Ray, and their bubble grunge sound looked set to make Dando one of rock's biggest stars.

But his descent into the abyss of drink and drugs was so well documented, it seemed he could never be taken seriously as an artist again. But that concern has been remedied with his new album, Car Button Cloth, which not only matches past achievements but shows clear signs of progress. "With songs like Losing Your Mind, I've finally made a lasting contribution to music, in my eyes," he says. Dando's manager Janet Billig feels Car Button Cloth is his best yet. "The album's got some of his most musically complex stuff, which is a side that Evan has never shown before," she says. "There's also a depth to it. It's a really dark record, but that's a reflection of what he's been through. He took drugs for the same reason most people do, as a release from all the demons. And then he disappeared because it all became about Evan the celebrity, not the songwriter. And the way to come back is to make a great record."

As well as a reborn attitude, there is also a new Lemonheads line-up. Drummer Dave Ryan, now playing in Fuzzy, and bassist Nic Dalton, now running a bookshop and record label, have been replaced by ex-Dinosaur Jr drummer Murph and the experienced Australian bassist Bill Gibson. "The old band got burnt out with all my bullshit, so they split. Murph and Bill are fresher and they're better musicians, too," says Dando.

The first proof is the single If I Could Talk I'd Tell You, which relates the infamous scenario where a drug binge caused Dando to lose his voice two weeks before he was due to finish the Come On ... album and couldn't talk to the journalists sent to interview him. Originally, the first single was going to be Purple Parallelogram, a song Dando co-wrote with Oasis's Noel Gallagher but, after Gallagher vetoed its release, it has also been removed from the album "I'm happy that it's not coming out," says Dando. "We wrote this really dumb song, which I recorded for the sheer hell of it. I didn't like it much either but, of course, the record company loved it and wanted it as a single in the UK. Thank God Noel blew the whistle on it, because it's not all there as a song."

Besides Australian chum Tom Morgan, who Dando wrote half of the Come On ... album with, there are co-writing credits on Car Button Cloth for Epic Soundtracks (Swell Maps, The Jacobites) and Eugene Kelly (Vaselines, Eugenius). And there is a cover of the traditional country song Knoxville Girl. "It's a scary, weird song, for a scary, weird album, for a scary, weird world," Dando ventures.

As honest as ever, Dando charts his decline on the new album - song titles include Break Me, Hospital and Something's Missing - but he claims his drug problems are behind him. "It's just a drink problem I'm wrestling with," he says.

Dando has also earned his stripes as an actor, co-starring with Liv Tyler in the acclaimed Heavy, but he doesn't see the sliver screen as his future. He says, "I'm a musician, not an actor. Fuck acting." How long Dando will remain a musician is in doubt, too, depending on what you believe when he talks about his departing bandmates. "I'm going next, y'know. I'm 29, so catch me when I'm 31, I'm not going to be in any frigging band. It's just too much fun, it'll kill you." What would he do? "I'm going to write books...a children's book if you must know."

He then does a complete about-face. "Actually, that's a bunch of nonsense I just said. I'll be playing rock music until I'm 80 years old." The message being, don't expect Dando to become predictable just yet.

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