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Review of It's A Shame About Ray (2008 Reissue)
by Carl Cortez

From IFMagazine April 2008

 

By the time Lemonheads arrived with their 1992 disc It's A Shame About Ray, the only original member was singer/songwriter Evan Dando and the punk-pop made with co-founder Bob Deily [sic] in the ‘80s was long gone.

While Lovey, the first major label Lemonheads album found Dando experimenting with country-rock, pop and light punk, it was Ray, with its big jangly guitars that offered up a perfect antidote to the grunge rock Seattle scene that was taking the charts by storm from Nirvana to Pearl Jam.

Now Rayis getting the deluxe “Collector’s Edition” in a new 2-disc release from Rhino/Atlantic Records. Compiling the original album, bonus tracks, demos and a DVD of concert performances and music videos from the era, it’s nice to finally listen to the album on its own merits and not lamenting what the band used to be.

Surprisingly, Rayis still a nice, quick, breezy glide through acoustic pop. Dando’s laid back stylings work perfectly on songs like “Rudderless,” “Allison’s Starting to Happen” and “Confetti,” but it's Juliana Hatfield providing bass and backing vocals that really rounds out and complements Dando’s softer side.

While the demos are rough and ragged, offering little revelation (and production value), the anomaly in the bunch is actually the Simon and Garfunkel remake of “Mrs. Robinson.” Not pressed on the disc when it was first released, when the band was asked to re-record it for a reissue of The Graduate on video, the song took off and the record label tacked it on to the end of repressings of the disc much to the chagrin of die-hard fans. The faster pace of the song, is more in line with older Lemonheads, and never really fit into Ray’s soundscape, but it’s here, for better or worse.

Lemonheads only experienced a brief moment in the spotlight thanks to this album (actually more thanks to "Mrs. Robinson), and their subsequent releases (before they disbanded in the late ‘90s), while having certain high points, never really found their radio calling. Unlike Goo Goo Dolls, who also started off punk and mellowed into mainstream pop balladeers, Dando never really seemed to want the attention and accolades and didn’t have the big, chunky, super-produced hooks to play arenas. Instead, his music hit the same kind of soft swagger, and as evident on his 2003 solo album Baby I'm Bored, at times that’s how the singer-songwriter sounded in a nutshell.

Although Lemonheads (now referred to as The Lemonheads) have reformed and released a better-than-average disc in 2006 with a new one on its way later this year, Raystill presents the band at its most popular.

The songs are short, the melodies sweet and Dando makes the title song such a sad, catchy lullaby that you’ll be humming days after hearing it again. It’s still shocking that 16 years have passed since its original release, but a true testament to a band and their music is how it holds up years later – and It's A Shame About Ray sounds as fresh as it did the day it hit record stores.

And if I have to explain what a record store is, then you’re too young to even know who the Lemonheads were.

 

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