Review of The Lemonheads
From Retrolowfi September 2006
I’ve been pondering whether or not I should review this closer to the September 26th release date or just do it now. Well, you can obviously see what I’ve decided. Why am I jumping the gun on this particular album review, you ask? Because this is the first Lemonheads record in ten years and it’s flippin’ awesome.
Not familiar with Evan Dando and his band of merry studio musicians? Oh well, doesn’t matter. Who cares if Evan might have dabbled in the occasional drink or speedball, you know? And so what if there’s been exactly no two Lemonheads albums with the same lineup? These are things that you just have to put out of your mind. You’re not gonna understand why Dando does much of anything, frankly, so here’s all you actually need to keep in mind: Evan Dando is possibly one of the best pop songwriters of the last 20 years… and he’s known for everything but that.
The 2006 model of The Lemonheads include Dando, some J Mascis guitarwork, as well as ex-Descendents/Black Flag drummer Bill Stevenson… hell, even Garth Hudson from The Band shows up to play keys on a few songs. Um, I miss Juliana Hatfield’s backing vocals as much as the next guy, but with a lineup like that, I think I can make peace without her. The real question is how do they sound, right? Never fear, this self-titled album is exactly what you’d get if you put every prior Lemonheads release into a blender to make one unified whole. That’s not to say it’s the best ‘Heads record ever, but it’s certainly everything you want from such a brand name.
Opening rocker “Black Gown” would have fit in just perfectly on 1990’s Lovey, “Baby’s Home” is there for your Gram-Parsons-with-a-serious-case-of-dementia needs, and you’re just not gonna get any catchier than the midtempo lead single “Become The Enemy”. If there are any missteps on the record, they come pretty late in this 35 minute affair. I’m not crazy about “Steve’s Boy”, which was predominantly the songwriting work of Stevenson… and it sounds just like an outtake from his later group All. I mean, it’s an okay tune and all, but it just sounds a bit out of place here. There’s also a good three minute strecth of noise in “December” that doesn’t really blow my whistle, but it reminds me of the noisy Lemonheads tape collage cover of Whitney Houston’s “How Will I Know”, so I’m not opposed to it or anything - I could just live without it. And heck, the spoken word passage before the noise freak-out in “December” kinda reminds me of the creepy closing passage in their 1987 thrashfest “Sneakyville”, so all is forgiven.
Even though this new Lemonheads record doesn’t throw you any surprises, it also doesn’t sound dated at all, and that’s because great songs don’t have a sell-by date. The album just comes into your house, does some damage, drinks all your beer and crashes on your couch before you even get a chance to tap your watch. The Lemonheads are back, and it’s a damn good thing… because rock music needs Evan Dando now more than ever.