Review of The Lemonheads
by Sean Moeller
From Summit Daily News, 1st October 2006
About time The Slacker King returns
A few weeks ago, this space was used to suggest a fine group that would lift your spirits and put a little zing back into your loafers. The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, that family of three, those thrift store clothes-wearing, wacky world trekkers who sing about Long John Silver and spin the private moments of strangers into bizarre pop songs, should in no way be confused for Evan Dando and The Lemonheads.
There's very little fun in his world. The band's first new studio album since 1996, a self-titled release out this past week, is a glimpse into a man who took a long time to write and record songs that essentially focus on his superhuman quality of making the least of moments and giving himself completely over to the belief that he's a pawn and working hard at something might just get you in trouble. It's what the quicksand wants you to do - struggle and fight against it so that downward pull can work faster. Dando's a poster boy for a belief system that observes - frighteningly it feels - the same protocol as someone who's just encountered a black bear in the middle of the open forest at Arcadia National Park - just lie there, play dead and hope it goes away. This may not work in real life - one with deadlines, alarm clocks and day jobs - it's gone OK for a man who, despite his low amount of output since the time when Chris Meadows was a new cast member on Saturday Night Live and Chris Sabo was winning the National League Rookie of the Year award as a Cincinnati Red, can probably still afford to rise mid-afternoon and begin drinking beer immediately with no regrets.
Known for his soap opera-cut hairstyle (very pretty; Jack Deveraux of "Days of Our Lives," but three times as long and with more of a Kurt Cobain unwashed treatment) and his incredibly precise penchant for retaining his title as the mayor of Slacker Town, Dando still was able to harness enough drive in the mid-90s to write, record and release two albums (1992's "It's A Shame About Ray" and 1993's "Come On Feel The Lemonheads" - an album name that brought Quiet Riot back into social, conversational circles) that went onto gold status in the United States. "The Lemonheads" again explores the value of taking a load off and patiently letting things come your way. The difference between when Dando does this and when, say, Jack Johnson or Jimmy Buffet does this, is that Dando seems to invite bad days and figurative broken bones.
His is not a world where things take care of themselves. His is a world where, when left to their own design, they go to hell in a handbasket - a phrase he's welcome to use as his next world tour slogan as it's not mine.
Dando probably feels alive when things are troublesome and on the ropes. It's a feeling that gets to a lot of people. He sings, "Let's just laugh/We can never do anything about anything/Anyway," and it's funny how if you try really hard to splash more twang and tag a Southern drawl onto his aloof voice you'd have yourself a country and western album that would win a CMA for album of the year. The subject matter is hit-quality for country radio (you know, hypothetically if those things we talked about were changed), but at times is hit-or-miss as a rock album. There's some vitality to it, but for the most part it's just a batch of songs we waited too long for.