Reviews of Hate Your Friends
Jeff Chase - What Is To Be Done? 23rd April 1987
There is a good reason to be proud if you're a Lemonhead these days. With their debut LP Hate Your Friends, four young Boston lads who call themselves the Lemonheads emerge as one of the Hub's premier bands, able to sound both familiar and fresh.
Most of the songs on Hate mix pop and punk, sometimes inclining towards the sweet strains of the former, sometimes bashing around in the latter. And despite some obvious influences, everything from X to the Pagans to Raw Power, Lemonheads manage to breathe new life and youthful entusiasm into some very recognizable forms.
The tracks here are those on which pop and punk co-exist as equal partners. "I Don't Wanna" has the most easily discernable melody of any of the songs, carried by lead singer Evan Dando and a nifty bass line. The guitars on "I Don't Wanna" are used more for texture than anything ese, and the whole conglomeration reminds you of Moving Target's approach.
In a different, but successful vein is the title track. Here, the jerky, sporadic guitar chords suggest the premium-fueled rockability licks of former X guitarist Billy Zoom, while Dando chants out some direct but not inane lyrics: "We got problems we can't solve. It's enough to make you want to hate your friends." It's not the most charitable sentiment but it is honest.
If there is a serious problem with Lemonheads, it is that their approach is too straightforward and panders to too many established punk cliches. Their cover of "Amazing Grace" is yet another example of a disaffected group of young people defecating on a classic. Like Sid Vicious' rendition of "My Way," this tune is good for only a few minor chuckles before it gets shelved. Similarilythe straight thrash of "Rat Velvet" and "Sneakyville" is loud but ultimately generic.
However, these flaws are few and must be expected of a young band. What Lemonheads have to offer is the power of youth, impressionable but active. Lemonheads are both "Fed Up" and "Fucked Up" and want to tell you the whole story of their lives in a not too polite tone of voice. When you have enthusiasm like this, it makes you want to like Hate Your Friends.
Michael James Hall - Line of Best Fit, 3rd October 2013
Devotees of The Lemonheads may well have some knowledge of a time when the band was a Replacements-inspired garage band in which vocalist/guitarist Ben Deily occasionally shared singing and songwriting duties with spike-haired drummer Evan Dando. This was, as Fire records would have it so crassly as the title of the set (including stickers. Yay. Stickers) that collects these three releases, ‘When The Lemonheads Were Punk’. Well, it’s true. They were. And here’s the evidence.
Back in ’87, a year after the release of their debut EP – the scrappy, punch-drunk Laughing All The Way To The Cleaners - the band threw out their debut proper; the brilliantly titled Hate Your Friends, the first in this batch of reissues. It’s frantic, fitfully exciting and has occasional moments of brilliance. The downstroke heavy post-hardcore is as snot-nosed as you’d expect, but Deily’s Bob Mould-inspired melodies on songs like ‘Second Chance’ and the gorgeous ‘Uhhh’ (which also boasts a raw, fiercely heartbroken vocal from him) are a blossoming delight.
The lowest moments here are the ‘oh, of course’ punk-pop cover of ‘Amazing Grace’ (which must have seemed like a great idea at someone’s keg party) and the fact that Dando is nowhere near being a good songwriter at this stage, despite steering the stumbling, collapsing title track and giving out a gnarled, strangled vocal on the passable ‘Nothing True’. This was a band more intent on playing as fast and hard as they were capable than in the nuances of either songcraft or tunefulness, though there are flecks of imagination here that add a little colour to the heads down black and white tone of the record.
The extras here are fine. They include a cover of Big Star’s ‘Mod Lang’ that’s not as bad as you’d fear, Dando’s wavering vocal perfectly expressing the song’s naïve desires. There’s also ‘Sad Girl’ which, had it made it on to the album proper, might have been the most melodic thing on it. There’s a set from WERS Radio in ’87 that has the band knocking out songs in breathless fashion, pausing only to ask for pledges toward the publicly funded station. There’s a storming version of The Users’ anthem ‘Sick Of You’, as well as an early take on ‘Falling’ which would end up on follow-up album Creator.