The Lemonheads | 02.15.07

ev_lemon_smAny album that is a band's first in nine years is a high-stakes game, the band obligated to create something that both echoes their own past glories but also shows that they've grown and developed in the time away. Fortunately, Dando succeeds wildly on this front with The Lemonheads, released last fall on Vagrant.

 

 

 

w/VietNam
at the Voodoo Café and Lounge at Harrah's, Maryland Heights, Mo.
doors 7:15, show 8 | $15.98 | 21+

The now-dead musical formats of the cassette tape and the LP had many downsides to be sure, but one major benefit was the ability of a songwriter to pull a fast one on the listener and inject in a perfect, concise rock tune that blazes by in under two minutes. Now with a digital timer emblazoned on the front of every CD player and iPod screen, some listeners will see a song's run time and feel "ripped off," as if the band somehow owes them more music in lieu of a song that isn't one second longer than it needs to be.

Any fan possessing that skewed logic probably steered away from the Lemonheads a long time ago. Their loss. Like Robert Pollard with a smaller catalog and (one would assume) a more finely honed crap detector, head Lemonhead Evan Dando began crafting brilliant bite-sized pop songs two decades back. The band exploded into the public consciousness with 1992's It's a Shame About Ray, a perfectly timed encapsulation of punk- and folk-influenced alterna-pop whose title track and an appended cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" introduced Dando's jangling guitar and slacker vocal stylings to the masses. Unfortunately, much of the press concentrated more on Dando's rugged good looks than on his music (the founding of the infamous anti-fanzine "Die, Evan Dando, Die" being the most egregious example), and Dando faltered with a pair of records (1993's Come on Feel the Lemonheads and 1996's Car Button Cloth) that were more uneven, and scattered filler in with the moments of pop perfection. Fights with drug addiction and a constantly changing lineup led to the group's quiet disbandment.

Any album that is a band's first in nine years is a high-stakes game, the band obligated to create something that both echoes their own past glories but also shows that they've grown and developed in the time away. Fortunately, Dando succeeds wildly on this front with The Lemonheads, released last fall on Vagrant. After getting his sea legs back with 2003's solo album Baby, I'm Bored, he entered the studio with high hopes. "You should listen to the Descendents' Milo Goes to College to get an idea of what the next Lemonheads record sounds like," he claims. "I wanted to make a rock record, a melodic rock record."

Though up-tempo songs like the blistering opener "Black Gown" and "Steve's Boy" echo the fury of that hallowed SoCal punk band, this isn't a return to the sound of the Lemonheads' early days. Scattering in ample amounts of folk-y charm ("Let's Just Laugh," "Poughkeepsie"), pure pop ("Become the Enemy"), wailing guitar rock ("No Backbone," ably assisted by a guest spot from Dinosaur Jr.'s J. Mascis), and even a good ol' fashioned country death song ("Baby's Home"), Dando has certainly crafted that "melodic rock record" he was looking for.

Much of the quality of the new record is thanks to the latest additions to the revolving door Lemonheads lineup and one of the tightest rhythm sections ever to walk the earth, bassist Karl Alvarez and drummer Bill Stevenson—both members of All and, conveniently enough, the Descendents. Though the pair couldn't join Dando for the ensuing world tour, their replacements, Vess Rutenberg and Devon Ashley of the Pieces, have already received rave reviews for their performance in a live set that features up to 35 of Dando's perfect pop nuggets a night. The band is joined on the road by VietNam, a Brooklyn band whose phenomenal self-titled debut is sure to be one of the most talked-about records of the year. | Jason Green

 

The Lemonheads on tour through February

2/1: Ft. Lauderdale, FL @ Culture Room
2/2: St. Petersburg, FL @ State Theatre; 2/3: Tallahassee, FL @ The Beta Bar
2/5: Birmingham, AL @ Zydeco
2/6: New Orleans, LA @ The Parish/House of Blues
2/8: Houston, TX @ Scout Bar
2/9: Austin, TX @ Emo's
2/10: Dallas, TX @ Palladium Ballroom
2/13: Memphis, TN @ Young Ave. Deli
2/14: Nashville, TN @ Exit/In
2/15: Maryland Heights, MO @ Voodoo Lounge/Harrah's
2/16: Indianapolis, IN @ The Vogue
2/17: Milwaukee, WI @ Shank Hall
2/19: State College, PA @ Lulu's
2/20: Millvale, PA @ Mr. Small's
2/21: Baltimore, MD @ Ottobar
2/23: Brooklyn, NY @ Southpaw
2/24: Hoboken, NJ @ Maxwell's

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply