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Lemonheads live at Batschkapp, Frankfurt

Review by Simon Williams from NME 6th April 1991

 

It's only a matter of time before Holiday '91 and Wish You Were Here open their eyes and their arms to the joys and tribulations of rock'n'roll. Surely, one day soon, sun-soaked scenes of beachcombing in the Bahamas and stories about East African safaris will be interspersed with informative guides on how to see your favourite fraggle/lurch/hardcore band (delete where applicable) on the Continent, whether it be in a mousehole-sized cupboard in Holland or a sodding great field in France.

In a few days time, Canada's Doughboys and Boston's Lemonheads will be giving International Rescue a fine time playing with Carter, Buffalo Tom, Throwing Muses and, erm, Fields Of The Nephilim in Dusseldorf. By then, Mega City 4 should be back in Blighty after a nine-week trek around Europe. This, amongst other things, demonstrates how important Europe is becoming on the '90s gig circuit.

Backstage at Frankfurt, the mood is splendid, with various band members casually jamming together, working through the seemingly infinite rider and generally, uh, hanging out. The stage order is irrelevant - over the few dates together the three bands will be changing the running order so everyone gets a crack at the headline slot, and The Doughboys certainly appear unpeturbed by the prospect of taking the first shift, in spite of the fact it allows them all of, ooh, five minutes to consume a pile of take-out pizzas.

Once on the boards, belching down cheese and tomato fumes, they earn the award for Sight Of The Night with singer John Kastner - a kind of dreadlocked mutant hybrid of Perry Farrell and Freddie Mercury - leaping not just off the drum riser, but off the flippin' drumkit as well. Gasp.

Powerpunkpop is their bag and they shake it wildly, frenzied axe squalls lashed by 17-part harmonies and frightening amounts of hair. Their songs possess the kind of lunging-stroke-crawling dexterity that brings to mind that sleazy old dance troupe Hot Gossip. Except The Doughboys don't wear latex. At least, not on the surface.

As for Mega City 4, the only Brits on display excepting my humble self, snapper Ed Sirrs and a handful of hysterical stagedivers, 'unsafe' springs to mind. Label-less since departing from Decoy last year, they'd rather spend two months on the autobahn than get down to the nitty gritty of sorting out new contracts. The fact they don't particularly want to go home is amazing enough. The fact they perform with all the carefree jubilation of a one-off Reading appearance instead of a millionth exhausting Euro date is simply disturbing.

There's a singles compilation due out back home in a few weeks, but the Megas do it few promotional favours live, preferring instead to stick with the bulk of the vastly underrated Who Cares Wins album. No Such Place As Home is an ever-ripening peach of a tune - which makes it pretty damn fruity by Wiz's songwriting standards. The fulsome harmonies in Messenger are touched by the larynx of God. And the best moment (again!) is the middle bit in Finish, where the guitars accelerate sublimely to the last post. Mega indeed.

It's a hard act for The Lemonheads to follow, but they stick to the task like a private detective aiming for a million dollar bonus. If the continuing cover version saga and the absurd line-up changes (the original trio is back together, for now) suggests that the Lemons are turning into a frivolous circus act, a Barron Knights for a barren generation, then tonight is a revelation, a pointed kick up the arse for reality and all who sail in her.

The physical gymnastics are kept to a minimum, with bassist Jesse lurching amiably and pivotal force Evan Dando content to nurture a disconcertingly Thurston Moore-like fringe. Quite right, too: The Lemonheads, for all their fevered sprints, are the kind of multi-faceted collective who aren't afraid to roll languidly when rock seems to be the logical option. Such is their malleability, they veer towards Plasticenecore (or something), changing shape like Morph on a bad acid trip.

Yet, no matter the volume, the intensity remains rigid. They're more of a shivering chapel than a (cough) sonic cathedral for sure, but that doesn't take anything away from Evan's viper-style guitar strikes.

Almost inevitably, after an entire set of wired-up wonders, the Lemons buckle and throw out Different Drum (to which no-one budges) and the career-guiding Luka. Both are merely decorations on what is turning into a fearsomely crucial cake. Gripping show, great gig. Judith Chalmers, book that ticket.

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