Review of The Lemonheads
by Jeremy Iverson
From College Times, 5th October 2006
The best and worst thing you can say about the new Lemonheads album, their first in almost a decade, is that it sounds just like The Lemonheads with All’s rhythm section. Fitting, really, since that’s what The Lemonheads is; a return to the more pop-punk oriented sound of the band’s earlier work, with the help of two of pop-punk’s founding fathers, Karl Alvarez (Descendants/All) and Bill Stevenson (Black Flag/Descendants/All).
For diehard fans of both, Lemonheads and All, this album will be a welcome addition to your collection. In one recording, you can get Evan Dando’s lazy, hazy pop tunes and baritone vocals, and All’s tight, quick rhythms. What’s most fascinating is how well the two mix with Dando’s open guitar chords and laconic vocals riding so effortlessly over Alvarez and Stevenson’s rhythmic foundation.
This is primarily a product of good songwriting. The best songs are those that maintain a balance, never going too fast or too slow. “Pittsburgh,” with its Beatles-sounding backbeat and Dando’s country-influenced guitar is a new Lemonhead’s classic. “No Backbone,” written by Australian recluse Tom Morgan, is the best song here, keeping the folksy acoustic guitars of Dando’s best Lemonheads work, with a heavy rock beat, Alvarez’s walking bass line and guest guitar solos from Dinosaur Jr.’s J. Mascis.
While these tracks all succeed because of their balance of power among the musicians, many of the songs here falter for vaguely the same reason. There’s talent and history, but not many hooks. It makes the album seem like a gimmick gone awry. If Dando had brought in a few more collaborators, there would be a little more edge. The album is too cohesive and too similar throughout.
The lingering disappointment here is due in part to the wait for Lemonheads fans. If this had been another Dando solo album, it wouldn’t matter quite as much that it doesn’t stand up to the pop-punk classics the Lemonheads have created before, especially It’s a Shame About Ray, one of the brightest spots of the alternative heyday of the 1990s. It’s just a pleasant, but unremarkable, album by some very good musicians.