Review of The Lemonheads
by Jim Farber
From The NY Daily News, 22nd October 2006
Making lemonade out of Lemonheads
Not all band reunions bring back the actual band members. Some focus instead on reviving their sensibility.
That's essentially the case with the Lemonheads' self-titled "comeback" CD - their first in 10 years. You won't find a single member of the original group here save singer-writer-leader Evan Dando. That's okay, because it was always all about him to begin with.
The "band," such as it ever was, ran through more than two dozen bassists and drummers in its 10-year existence - which suggests one reason it never had a lucrative commercial life. The other was Dando's tendency to get blotto, by way of increasingly risky means.
By 2003, a sobered-up Dando came back with a solo album, "Baby I'm Bored," which, unfortunately lived down to its title. The disk had little of the zip and color of the Lemonheads' peak.
Luckily, this time Dando finally jiggered the formula right.
"The Lemonheads" boasts the yearning melodies and spirited playing that marked Dando's most celebrated efforts of the '90s, like "It's a Shame About Ray" and "Come on Feel the Lemonheads." This time, however, there's even more oomph to the sound, no surprise given Dando's main supporting players - drummer Bill Stevenson and bassist Karl Alvarez, both late of the hard-core band the Descendents.
Not that these songs are exactly mosh-pit-ready. They simply lean to the harder side of power pop. Cuts like "Become the Enemy" and "Poughkeepsie" should remind listeners of bands like Big Star or the Posies, with all the expected hooks and flourishes.
Dando matches such catchy tunes to his usual quick wordplay, which can lighten some traumatic narratives. "Baby's Home" offers a tale of domestic agony. "Steve's Boy" deals with a terrible father-son relationship.
Back in the Lemonheads' heyday, music of this sort got lumped into the "alterna-rock" category, raising expectations for something more pure and ambitious than Dando's talent could provide. Now, in the clear light of 2006, the Lemonheads can finally be seen as timeless pop-rockers, returning with a flavor worthy of the old band's name.