Lovey at 25

by Steven Long

On Lovey’s 25th birthday it seems right to reflect on one of the great and often neglected Lemonheads’ albums as birthday greetings and critical reappraisal has been thin on the ground – i.e. non existent. I’m not quite sure why Evan Dando’s star has fallen so low. 'That' cover version (which shall remain nameless) didn’t help. When did you have a conversation about Evan Dando and The Lemonheads that wasn’t interrupted by the Simon and Garfunkel question at some point? An annoyance, but an annoyance that probably bought Evan Dando some much needed major label time to write It’s A Shame About Ray, especially as its forerunner Lovey, their first for a major label, was hardly a runaway success.

Though closely related to Ray on many levels, Lovey was a much darker album, its musical tales of outsiders, misfits and druggies brought to life by some great melodies, lyrics and one or two ridiculous over the top solos by part time member Corey Loog Brennan.  The album’s opener Ballarat, its playground chants and screams butting up against Husker Du style guitars and Juliana Hatfield’s ethereal background vocals typical of Lovey’s overarching sense that something ain’t quite right in the American suburbs. A lyric about a power mad killer (the songwriter himself ?) undercut by the line, “Don’t be scared it’s just a song”. A warning that all you hear lyrically on Lovey should be taken with a pinch of a salt or a line of something much stronger. I mean what can you make of Lil Seed’s plea to be able to grow weed, “Society tells me what I can grow, what I can smoke…tell me what do they know…the cops are on my land turning my farm into sand, all for a little weed, all for a lil seed…tell me who can it harm?” Reagan’s War on drugs? Yeah, right. Then there’s Ride with Me’s, “If you can’t trust yourself, trust someone else”, which seems a recipe for disaster if the troubled souls that populate this album are anything to go by. The narrator of Left for Dead is put in a cell with a concrete floor, has a phone cord wrapped around his fist, which aborts his wrist and admits, “Now you’re right, and I’m left for dead”. And if you’re looking for a happy ending you won’t find one on Lovey’s final song (The) Door, “I ain’t hanging round no more…I’m picking up my Samsonite, and I’m walking right out the door”. Phew, Lovey really isn’t a barrel of laughs, and all the better for it.

Lovey’s downbeat celebration of outsiders and misfits (and people who won’t be told) suggest a songwriter ill equipped to deal with the end-of-the-rainbow celebrity gewgaws and insider status foisted on him after the success of Ray and Come On Feel The Lemonheads. Sure, anyone involved with the writing, playing and production of music wants and needs that kind of affirmation, but the stuff that comes with it is dangerous without the right kind of defences. Lovey is the sound of Evan Dando and The Lemonheads on the cusp of the big time, an album still rooted in the milieu so little understood by mainstream society, society which according to Lovey’s Ballarat, “Tells me who I can be, who I can know.” A society that Evan, on current known evidence, is still reacting against and discomfited by 25 years later.