Review of The Lemonheads
by Ed Bumgardner
From Relish, 24th November 2006
If you like: Scruffy power-pop
Song to download: "Black Gown"
Evan Dando spent the 1990s as alternative-pop's most beautiful mess - a handsome, convincing singer, songwriter and guitarist who, as the mastermind of The Lemonheads, was responsible for some of the best alternative-pop music of that decade (It's A Shame About Ray).
That he accomplished this while embarking on a program of sustained substance abuse and questionable mental stability makes the re-emergence of The Lemonheads all the more amazing. Dando is undeniably older - it has been 10 years since the last Lemonheads album - and seemingly wiser, judging from the band's new album, The Lemonheads.
It is very much a band album. Bassist Karl Alarez and drummer Bill Stevenson, two-thirds of The Descendents, the seminal punk band, crucially back Dando, who still slouches front and center. Stevenson also co-wrote three songs and he co-produced the album with Dando. The resulting disc is fast (30 minutes), loud and filled with the sort of gloriously ramshackle rock candy for which Dando is known.
The songs are given to smart emotional and social observation, and the hooks are large and sharp on such tracks as "Black Gown" - a galloping shower of melody, feedback and chugging guitar chords - and "No Backbone," featuring guitarist J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr. There are also diversions from the pop mayhem. Dando's long love of country/roots music is the foundation for such songs as "Poughkeepsie" and "Baby's Home," a clever, somewhat disturbing narrative about revenge exacted upon an unfaithful lover that is ripped right out of the annals of hillbilly history.
The Lemonheads is a less grand comeback than an energetic testing of the waters. It's a strong album - not great, but one with great moments - that does show how gifted Dando once was, and could well be again.