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Review of The Lemonheads
by Leslie Gray Streeter

From The Palm Beach Post, 6th October 2006

I always thought Evan Dando, the lanky, long-haired, deadpan leader of The Lemonheads, was completely underrated, mostly because he was cursed with cuteness and insisted on being musically upbeat and even cheerful amidst the self-appointed '90s era of gloom (The albums It's A Shame About Ray and Come On Feel The Lemonheads are uneven but stirring symphonies of punk-pop jangle, and Come On's Into Your Arms stands out as the most soaring, vulnerable love song of a generation that was supposed to be too ironic to really be in love).

The cute/cheerful combination is usually a critical death knell to an artist, who then won't be taken seriously until they repent and change. The Lemonheads, Dando's self-titled Vagrant debut after years on Atlantic, is evidence that you can grow up lyrically while remaining unrepentantly and pleasingly scruffy. Dando addresses the realities of late 30-something-hood with the same straight-up, lyrically deft eye with which he approached the newfound adulthood of your 20s.

Fans know that The Lemonheads was really always Dando with a rotating series of players — the official Vagrant site estimates there have been more than 10 bass players and at least a dozen drummers. This time, Dando is in the impressive company of bassist Karl Alvarez and drummer Bill Stevenson, both of Descendents.

The result is a fast collection of ruminations about regret (Pittsburgh), the struggle to accept the responsibility of a lousy or complacent relationship (Enemy, No Backbone), the infidelity saga Baby's Home, war and pain (Let's Just Laugh) and, most stunningly, Stevenson's Steve's Boy, a bittersweet pledge of support to a father who never made the same pledge. But even with the seriousness of the subject matter, The Lemonheads maintain a sprightly, insistent surf-punk cadence that never lets the self-examination descend into treacle. And that's a feat in itself.

The grade: B+


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