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Lemonheads live at Somerset House, London -16th July 2006

Review by David Sinclair from The Times

3/5

In September, the Lemonheads will release their first new album since 1996. “I just decided to duck out for a while,” Evan Dando explained, when asked to account for the ten-year hiatus. At the age of 39, Dando is the most perfectly preserved relic of the American slacker generation that dominated the international rock stage in the early 1990s. His floppy fringe, gangling physique and car mechanic’s jeans all remained eerily unchanged from the days when the Boston trio first set out to marry instant pop melodies to hardcore guitar music.

And there was still something of the perennial underachiever about him as he led the latest line-up of the Lemonheads back into the fray on a glorious summer’s evening in the courtyard of Somerset House. The set-up remained simplicity itself. Accompanied by Josh Lattanzi on bass and backing vocals, and John Kent on drums and backing vocals, Dando sang and played the same Telecaster from start to finish. Not for him the constant retuning and swift replacement of guitars that most bands of a certain stature seem to require. For while the Lemonheads have smoothed out their sound considerably since the early years, Dando’s performing ethic remains rooted in the swift, rough-and-ready approach of American punk acts such as Television and the Ramones.

They began with an accelerated cascade of two and three-minute songs. Dando sang the tunes in his well-modulated but understated tone, breaking off to pick his way a little uncertainly through a scruffy guitar solo here and there. They played only one number, No Backbone, from the forthcoming album, a tasty, ringing rocker with clattering drums and chords overlaid by a honeyed harmony vocal. For the most part they contented themselves with a genial canter through a selection of old favourites. It’s a Shame About Ray was the first really big chorus to hit the decks, followed by the winsome Big Gay Heart, taken at a much slower tempo, which seemed a little unsteady. My Drug Buddy was a melodic highlight, and then Dando switched to folk troubadour mode, dismissing the other musicians and embarking on a long stretch of songs — including Outdoor Type and Being Around — accompanied only by his own guitar. It was nice, but hardly a revelation.


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