Monday, March 8, 2010

Lemonheads - It's A Shame About Ray (Atlantic, 1992)

The other night, I went and saw Evan Dando play solo at The Double Door. Before the encore, Nash Kato came out and told the crowd to give it up for one of the best singer/songwriters of our generation. After my 5th $6.50 Stella, I was willing to go the distance with the rest of the crowd on this one, even though I didn’t think Evan realized that he had played a few of his songs twice! I found that quite endearing, knowing that it was Evan, and he had probably been whoopin’ it up with Nash all day!

I remember getting It’s A Shame About Ray a few weeks before my friend Emily and I went and stayed a weekend by ourselves at her cabin on some lake back in Michigan. Although it was not the heavy rock stuff that I was listening to at the time, I absolutely fell in love with this album. The melodies were so amazing! I instantly picked up my acoustic guitar and learned how to play along with IASAR. That whole weekend was spent listening to this album, raiding Emily's parents' liquor cabinet, smoking cigarettes, playing along to the tunes on an old acoustic guitar, and falling off canoes. Such a great weekend!

This is easily one of those albums that you can put on and play from front to back and throw back on and play over again. I know that I do! I honestly can’t say that there is a bad song on IASAR. Alternative pop near-perfection! Evan’s songwriting was right on the mark when he penned this album, with its witty lyrics and simple-yet-catchy melodies. What’s great is that Evan is a simple singer/songwriter who lays out what he has to sing about and puts it to the perfect tune, whether it’s an acoustic ballad or something with a bit more backbone to it.

IASAR starts out with “Rockin’ Stroll.” When I hear this song, I imagine a baby in a stroller singing this tune in his head. If only babies were that awesome and could sing along with Evan...

“Confetti” is the next track, which is my favorite, since, well, it was the easiest that I could play on my guitar way back on that weekend! And I love the lyrics to this one: “He kinda shoulda sorta woulda loved her if he could’ve.” The music behind the lyrics to this one accompanies it just perfectly…complete synchronicity.

The record label had a problem with one of Evan's song titles, so he had to change it to “Buddy” from "My Drug Buddy", as it refers to him and his drug buddy going out to score. But, Mr. Record Executive, it’s such a pretty song! And it’s just some of the same stuff (they) got yesterday. And Evan loves his drug buddy. You definitely hear way worse these days. He was so 1992!

After a few more drug reference numbers, you get to the last two songs on the album that happen to be covers, the first being “Frank Mills” from the musical Hair. Just Evan and his acoustic. It's such a beautiful version! To me, it really shows his emotional vocal range. “Tell him Angela and I don’t want the two dollars back/Just him.”

Being a longtime artist who finally became popular, I’d be pissed if my big hit were a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson.” It's not a bad take at all. In fact, the Lemonheads do a fantastic job of it! But, come on. The people didn’t recognize their other great works like Lick and Hate Your Friends, but now you get noticed for this track? Yeah, I’d go and develop a crack cocaine habit, too. Well, maybe I wouldn’t go that far.

We fast forward to 2010 and see that Evan is still alive and kicking, playing solo gigs, and is still doing the Lemonheads! He forever has rotating members of great musicians who will always tour with him. Notably, on the last tour, Evan had Karl Alvarez and Bill Stevenson of the Descendents/ALL backing him (I could kick myself for missing that one!). He has settled down and found himself a nice model to marry. This past year saw the release of an all-covers album entitled Varshons with my favorite being GG Allin’s “Layin’ Up With Linda.But that’s for another review.

-Angie Granado-Wehrle

1 comment:

gunther said...

Saw the Lemonheads on tour with Soul Asylum and Freedy Johnston! My favorite part of their set was a sped-up version of "My Drug Buddy" and a kid-assisted "Bit Part." What I wouldn't give to rewind back to '92...