Reviews of It's A Shame About Ray reissue/special edition
Eammon Stack - BBC, 23rd November 2007
Lemonheads is, aptly, a brand of American candy that's sour on the outside and sweet on the inside. For this was a band that deftly matched pop sensibility with grunge directness. And if you're thinking that the 'The…' is missing, you're half right. It was actually added before their next release Come On Feel The Lemonheads (1993).
It's A Shame About Ray, their fourth release, was the album that pushed the band into the spotlight, after a cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs Robinson" that was recorded to coincide with the release of The Graduate (with Dustin Hoffman) onto video. The cover is fun but sounds rushed. It's the longest, weakest song on the album and was only added to the re-released version of the album.
It's in stark contrast to the opening track, "Rockin' Stroll". Here's the band's appeal in a nutshell: confident, concise, catchy and instantly accessible. They have country rock's ear for lyrical melodies matched with grunge's darker, heavier edge.
"Confetti", "Buddy", "Hannah & Gabi" and the title track express beautifully Evan Dando's lyrical directness and rare gift for fitting a compelling narrative into a sentence. he can conjur summers in less than three minutes, and several years of joy and pain into less than half an hour.
The title track, alongside "Buddy" and "Ceiling Fan In My Spoon", hint at the darker themes: The slide into adulthood, alienation and drug abuse.
Once sales of the album took off, Dando started to live this for real. He became the 'slacker sex-kitten' poster boy for the grunge generation, and was touted as its next rising star. His minor celebrity, newfound 'friends' (including Johnny Depp and Courtney Love) and over-exposure even briefly prompted the publication of an anti-Dando fanzine called ‘I Hate Evan Dando’.
But by their next release Come On Feel The Lemonheads Dando was combating his addiction and the band's popularity had peaked. Talk about wasted talent. Luckily Dando is still writing and touring and back from the dark side. But It's A Shame... is where his genius took flight...
Indiecater 23rd November 2007
For a band that seem to press all the right buttons it's a little surprising that the Lemonheads haven't achieved more success. Here is a band with a singer who is easy on the eye, possess cheery tunes aplenty and purport to moral values that don't require a parental warning. It's a Shame About Ray was their first album to tweak any interest outside of their native America and offers a glowing account of their potential. Evan Dando is the Gram Parsons adoring singer who writes all the music. His countrified drawl rarely changes pitch throughout the album, which is a bit of a pity because his lungs could probably offer a more wholesome workout. Ably helping him is Juliana Hatfield, the bass player and backing vocalist. She has had a moderately successful career with her own band, the ingeniously monikered Juliana Hatfield 3. Their song 'My Sister' went on to dent the outer reaches of the charts.
'It's A Shame About Ray' is a subtle album that could play in the background without ever offending anyone. The melodies spill generously from each of its 13 tracks and every once in a while you have to sit back and admire the consistent quality at work. The title track for example is so overtly wonderful; given the right exposure it could have drunks up and down the land attempting it in unison on their way home. 'Rockin Stroll' opens proceedings at a frantic pace. The guitar shards fire every each way as Dando attempts to rein in the chord bluster and chaotic drumming with some controlled vitriol. Against this backdrop the delightful 'Confetti' sounds close to sane. It remains one the album's highlights, swinging as it does from the coat tails of the cleanest of acoustic riffs. If you were to paint a picture of the images the tune conjures then a large ballroom with hundreds of twirling evening gowns would come fairly close.
'Rudderless' turns out to be nothing of the sort. The chord arrangements are clever and Hatfield's periodic vocal intermissions are fresh and dainty. 'The Turnpike Down' is equally impressive, with guitar and bass sequences recalling New Order while Dando produces a vocal delivery as slick as hair gel. This is the sort of music that just begs to be listened to. 'Buddy' is about as slowcore as the album gets, it is quaint but a little half-baked and droll. Many of the tunes pass by in a flash, hovering around the 3-minute mark. 'Alison's Starting To Happen' is less than 120 seconds long but its feverish makeup will blast a hole in your shirt. It all sounds like the band had purposely thrown their instruments into a washing machine in the hope that something melodic would eventually come out in the wash. Thankfully the experiment pays off handsomely with the result that 'Alison's Starting To Happen' is bold, dazzling and a riel treat.
The song that catapulted the Lemonheads to fame was their cover of Simon and Garfunkels 'Mrs. Robinson' from 'The Graduate' soundtrack. As well as introducing a new generation to the film, it breathed new gusto into a song that was over 20 years old. David Ryan's drumming is particular prevalent and beautifully adds to the songs scuzzy tact. Calm down there Juliana, when she does 'Bit Part' opens up to divulge the story of an unrequited friendship. What it lacks in substance it more than makes up with an energy that could power a hydroelectric station. Much more substantial is the rollercoasting 'Kitchen', the sometime dual vocals superbly keeping up with the lightning guitars. With several nods to Nashville 'Hannah & Gabi' rustles a strong melody from the unlikeliest of sources. The vocals are underplayed, the words lack self-esteem but the emotions that are central to its cause will have you tearing up. On a similar thread 'Frank Mills' sounds like it was recorded in a barn. Not very distinguished unless you are perched on a blanket, sitting around a fire taking periodic glances at the starry night sky.
Perhaps it's the album's distant lack of shock value or the ease at which the tunes sound amiable that has hindered the progress of this album. The lyrics tend to drift from the simplistic to the banal adding credence to the thought that Mr. Dando's mind was perhaps resident in a parallel universe (ceiling fan in my spoon, anyone?) during the recordings. There is no denying, however, that 33 minutes in the company of the Lemonheads is time well spent. An album you'll keep returning to even if something replaces the guitar as pop music's greatest invention. Rating: 7/10
Michael Bertin - The Austin Chronicle 7th March 2008
Evan Dando loved heroin. The first time he tried it was in Australia, where he had gone to write songs for what would become 1992's It's a Shame About Ray, the Lemonheads' fifth album. It worked for a while, too. The first two-thirds of Ray might be one of the five or six finest documents of nongrunge melodic slacker angst. From opening "Rockin Stroll" through "Alison's Starting to Happen," Dando's sleepwalk vocals are the perfect foil to the wannabe Seattle-sound guitars. A cheeky cover of "Mrs. Robinson" was eventually tacked on to demonstrate how easily Dando could cross over to mainstream appeal. Sadly, mainline appeal was much stronger. Five years later, Dando was MIA, and Ray, which at one time appeared a natural outgrowth from the group's underappreciated Atlantic debut, Lovey, ended up the aberration in a short-circuited career of disappointments. Bonus demos and a DVD of videos and footage of Dando during his Aussie stint play mildly interesting, but they mostly remind one of how royally Dando fucked up what might have been. 3.5 stars
Stephen M. Deusner - Pitchfork Media - 28th March 2008
I couldn't have given a shit about the Lemonheads in 1992, when I was a freshman in college and all the upperclass women were swooning over Evan Dando. For me, his pin-up status de-authenticated his music, which seemed mopey and unsubstantial. He sounded detached, like a stoner at a funeral, and the songs on the Lemonheads' break-out album, It's a Shame About Ray, were so short (several under two minutes) and the hooks so nonchalant they sounded accidental, all of which suggested a paucity of ideas and a short attention span reinforced by song titles like "Rudderless" and "My Drug Buddy".
So, when Rhino's new reissue arrived in the mail a few weeks ago, I put it in my early 90s boombox out of pure nostalgia, mildly curious to hear how or if it had aged. Since then, I've kept playing it for very different reasons, which are more difficult to pinpoint and hopefully say as much about the music as they do about me. Almost 16 years after its initial release, Dando's slacker pop sounds almost Zen. Those short songs now seem concise and even disciplined. What was once mopey now plays as something much more complex and contradictory: exuberant pop melancholy.
Some background: The Lemonheads formed in Boston during the mid-1980s and released three albums of fuzzy punk-pop on local label Taang! Records before signing to Atlantic in 1989. Their 1990 major-label debut, Lovey, wasn't a huge return on the investment, but in the two-year interval between that album and Ray, Nirvana and the ensuing alternative boom proved that smaller bands and unlikely signings could have enormous commercial prospects. The Lemonheads both benefited and suffered from this new pop cultural climate: Just as Ray found a more open-minded audience, it was also disregarded by so many kids like me, who were suddenly very serious about music, man, and saw only Dando's model looks, not his songcraft. Never mind that Ray is as much a junkie album as Nevermind, written and partly recorded during a particularly narcotic-heavy trip to Australia. No wonder Dando was a pin-up: He was handsome but damaged, a fixer-upper. If he was the Jordan Catalano before Jared Leto, then the do-they-or-don't-they controversy between him and roommate/bassist/Spin cover kissing partner/self-professed virgin Juliana Hatfield made them the Ross and Rachel of the "120 Minutes" set.
Now that all of that hubbub has died down and Dando is just another alt-act trying to make a comeback, Ray sounds nearly revelatory in its restlessness, mixing college pop with country flair and relocating Gus Van Sant's Portland atmosphere to New England. The most beguiling aspect of the title track, one of Dando's best compositions, is its impenetrability: It could be about anyone or pertain to almost any bad situation, and that ambiguity suggests some tragedy that can't be named or faced. "The Turnpike Down" descends on a tripping hook that sounds altogether too bubbly for the material, while "Alison's Starting to Happen", inspired by a friend's ecstasy trip, sounds genuinely excited, especially when Dando starts rushing his words towards the end. "Kitchen", with its handclaps and effervescent jangle, rubs elbows with the tense chords and casually manic repetitions of "Rudderless", where the acoustic guitar sounds spikier than the electric. And the bow on the package is the not-necessarily-ironic cover of "Frank Mills", a song from the musical Hair that Dando sings with a charmingly goofy bliss.
This is, of course, a reissue of a reissue: Less than a year after its initial release, Ray was re-released with that cover of "Mrs. Robinson" as a bonus track. It was more of a marketing than a musical decision, some suit's confounding idea to commemorate the 25th anniversary of The Graduate. So, take a red fine-point Sharpie and write "(bonus track)" next to that song title, and pretend it's a curious rarity rather than the lame album closer it became. The song is more endearing as a lead-in to Rhino's unearthed bonus tracks, which sound like they've still got dust on them. Aside from the B-side "Shaky Ground", which doesn't need the full-band treatment to convey its slept-on melody, there are nine rough demo versions featuring mainly Dando accompanying himself on guitar. That's three-quarters of the album, which isn't bad.
There's also a DVD of videos and live performances from the Lemonheads' Australian tour, showcasing the circle of friends who inspired the album as well as a dated title-track clip starring Johnny Depp. But the real attraction here is that set of demos: Dando's songs stand up exceptionally well stripped to their barest essentials, especially "My Drug Buddy" and "Bit Part", which loses Peggy Noonan's shouted intro but features tender backing vocals from Hatfield. Ultimately, these demos prove how much craft and care went into the album's unique blend of levity and gravity, which sounds so unaffected it could easily be missed.
Micheal Metivier - Pop Matters - 28th March 2008
I never understood the flack that the Lemonheads always received from music scribes who labeled frontman Evan Dando as a dippy golden boy, or the band’s music as typified by their breakthrough It’s a Shame About Ray with inane misnomers like “bubble-grunge”. But that could have been due to the fact that I never had access to MTV when the album was released in 1992. Now that the live/music video compilation 2 Weeks in Australia has been issued on DVD for the first time, paired with a deluxe Collector’s Edition for Ray, I’m starting to understand, even if I don’t necessarily agree.
Nearly every video (most produced by former Head Jesse Peretz) features Dando tossing his hair back as he strums a guitar, a playful smile on his face, and no lack of attractive, swoon-baiting bopping around. It would have been hard at the time for any self-serious twenty-something music nerd male to watch, jealous as fuck over Dando’s charms, the sensitive slacker beaming like a young, blissed-out Ted Danson (or Matt Dillon’s character from Singles on speed). Dreamy. The ensuing backlash against the Lemonheads’ success was mostly derived from that image, and ignored and/or unfairly skewed the assessment of Dando’s songs, which, while occasionally brisk and seemingly naïve, were solid and affecting. As it turns out, they’re also enduring well beyond the stoner giggles and early ‘90s “fashions”.
It’s a Shame About Ray was not only a commercial smash for the Lemonheads, it was an artistic peak. Formed in the suburbs of Boston in 1986 by teenaged Dando, Peretz, and Ben Deily, the band was initially drawn to hardcore and punk, releasing a few albums for the indie Taang! that showcased minute-long bursts of Hüsker Dü and Black Flag-inspired rants (and occasionally the abrasive whine of Deily). But from 1987’s Hate Your Friends to 1988’s Lick, Dando gradually gave in to more and more innate pop and country sensibilities, betraying influences to Gram Parsons, Patsy Cline, and uh, Charles Manson, among others. Ray might have broken big after the inclusion of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson”, but the band had already plenty of experience roughing up “Strange” and Suzanne Vega’s “Luka”.
In 1990 the band, now with Dando in complete control of the mic and songwriting duties, made its major label debut with Lovey, which featured an evolving grasp of sweet, melodic folk rock but suffered from muddy production and some clunky material. Whatever happened in the two years between Lovey and It’s a Shame About Ray must have been epic, however, as the latter is unmatched in the Lemonheads catalog for quality and consistency, with Dando writing benchmark songs for the ensuing singer-songwriter and alt-country subgenres.
Granted, the first pressing of It’s a Shame About Ray was only 29 minutes long. Songs like the opener “Rockin’ Stroll” and the spazzy “Ceiling Fan In My Spoon” rocket in and out in under two minutes, but long enough to ingrain their melodies in listeners’ heads. When the band does (relatively) stretch out, it’s for plaintive numbers such as the title track, “Rudderless”, and “My Drug Buddy”, whose sweetness belies a subtle yet intense loneliness and insight usually ascribed to more “serious” writers. “My Drug Buddy” (restored here to its full title after being neutered to “Buddy” in subsequent pressings to ward off Tipper Gore), in particular, is as well-crafted and poignant a song about drug abuse as you’re liable to ever hear. Without a speck of moralizing or sentimentality, Dando unveils a string of details and declarations that are inherently thought-provoking and sad. “She’s in the phone booth now / I’m looking in / Here comes a smile on her face / There’s still some of the same stuff we got yesterday’” is set up to contrast with “I’m too much with myself / I wanna be someone else”, each equally plain-sung by Dando’s honeyed baritone. “I love my drug buddy” gets repeated at the song’s close over a chord progression slightly inverted from the main theme, which adds a tinge of regret that both underscores and undercuts the lyric.
“Bit Part” and “Alison’s Starting to Happen” reconcile Dando’s punk past with his newfound prowess at catchiness and hooks. The first pairs a direct and repetitive statement, “I wanna bit part in your life / A walk-on would be fine”, with a punchy arrangement (and featuring Juliana Hatfield’s cute-as-hell backing vocals); and while some would dismiss the song for its simplicity, it’s effectively done. Between raising the octave between the first and second verses and amping up the intensity, the song does everything it needs to convey a very real desire in human relationships, then gets out. “Alison’s Starting to Happen” gleefully explores the beginnings of a crush in much the same way, and features a number of clever lines and images that reveal Dando’s knack for craft and sly romanticism (“She’s the puzzle piece behind the couch that makes the sky complete”).
But it’s songs like the pedal steel-washed “Hannah & Gabi” and the somber “The Turnpike Down” that are the album’s soul, their melancholy lending weight to the breezier tracks. “Hannah & Gabi”, also presented in this set in slightly speedier demo form, is sung from the perspective of an itinerant lover, or one on the cusp of a breakup, torn between necessity of what’s right and what would be easier but dishonest. Built on a disarmingly gentle acoustic riff, it’s one of the best songs Dando has written to this day. “The Turnpike Down” is very nearly as good, and could be the flip-side to the story of “Hannah and Gabi”, as the song’s character asks a heartbreaking question (“My country was of thee / Now why’d you have to leave?”) which transforms into a long lonely drive down the Massachusetts turnpike (“Butterscotch streetlamps mark my path / Mark my path down”). Contrary to the Lemonheads’ image as lightweights (often projected by the band itself), these songs were and remain the real deal.
If Rhino Records’ Collector’s Edition isn’t as exhaustive as similar compilations for other bands, that fact fits the album’s purposeful brevity. Ray benefits finally from a solid remastering, and retains the addition of “Mrs. Robinson” (recorded for the 25th anniversary of The Graduate, then added to new pressings to capitalize on its popularity). The aforementioned DVD is somewhat of a draw, if not for Dando’s stoned between-song ramblings than for early versions of later Lemonheads tracks “Being Around”, “It’s About Time”, and Lovey standouts “Half the Time” and “Ride With Me”.
Only one non-album song graces the CD, the b-side “Shaky Ground”, which is a little slight, since a number of extra-album songs exist from that period, including “Different Drum”, “Divan”, and multiple versions of songs that would later appear on Come on Feel the Lemonheads. But the slew of unreleased Ray demos is most welcome. Barely there home recordings of the songs on It’s A Shame About Ray prefigure Elliott Smith and other four-track enthusiasts of the late ‘90s for their intimacy and the sense they give that young Dando wasn’t the golden-haired pinup he was perceived to be, but a songwriter committed to spinning his musical and other obsessions in his own way.
Sylvie Simmons - Mojo April 2008
A welcome return for the Boston band's 1992 breakthrough album. Collectors' Edition form has demos and DVD.
The Lemonheads' fifth album and second for Atlantic Records - who'd signed them as a stoner pop-grunge band on the strength of 1989 indie album Lick - was their most melodic and accessible to date. A perfect pop album, its 12 songs had the vibrancy of US powerpop, the mellowness of country rock, the loud guitars of grung, the impatience of punk (only one track on the original album is more than three minutes long; the entire album came in at under 30 minutes) and the lyrical concision and perfectly-observed detail of a Ray Davies or early Elvis Costello. And the whole thing was washed in a sweet, dopey, lazy sunniness that gave warmth to everything it touched, and belied the precision and focus of the songwriting. As Dando, face-down in the grass, says, quoting the Count Five on the DVD footage: "I've found I have a talent for lying down in the sun."
Much of the album was writtn in sunny Australia, where the band toured and Dando went back for a holiday, writing alone and with friends about the characters he was hanging with (It's A Shame About Ray; Alison's Starting To Happen; My Drug Buddy, or 'Buddy' as Atlantic preferred they called it). And it was recorded in sunny California in the old MGM studio where Elvis and Judy Garland once worked, with producers The Robb Brothers telling stories from the mad hippy days - the reasons, perhaps, for the two-minute cover of Frank Mills, from love-rock musical Hair. Stars dropped by the studio, including Johnny Depp, who wound up in their videos.
Track 13, a ragged rock cover of Simon And Garfunkel's Mrs Robinson, done for a video release of The Graduate after the album was finished, wasn't on the original pressing, but is included here. So are 14 more songs, all bar one (Shaky Ground) Dando's home demos of the album's songs. Most are performed solo, with acoustic guitar; a couple, like the sublime, dreamy My Drug Buddy, feature Juliana Hatfield on backing vocals. A few sound like demos, but more sound like spare, singer-songwriter Americana, vulnerable, wistful and dreamy.
Also included is DVD of their 1993 VHS Two Weeks In Australia - 45 minutes of videos, live footage, in-stores, and Dando sitting by the sea looking like a sun-kissed Dennis Wilson, talking to the camera about songs and bandmates. At a time when reissues are often little more than legal mugging, this, for a Lemonheads fan, is about as good as it gets. 5 stars.
Rob O'Connor - Metro Times April 2008
Why It's a Shame About Ray is receiving an expanded collector's edition now is anyone's guess. The album was originally released in 1992, so we're celebrating its 16th anniversary. In its original incarnation, Ray was a 12-track CD that barely lasted a half-hour. Coming at a time when albums were expanding to fill up the 80-minute capacity of CD technology, Ray's brevity was, if not a stroke of genius, at least an act of mercy. Its quick, catchy tunes never left you wanting less and if Evan Dando's hippie-stoner-slacker indifference made his music sound frustratingly vague and unfinished, well, that was pretty much what made it work.
The songs simply rolled off the back of the sound truck, upbeat where grunge was despondent, peppy and casual when serious and symbolic ruled the day. It would've sucked if he sounded like he was trying. Recorded before Dando had his dalliance with crack cocaine, "My Drug Buddy" sounds relatively benign and worth whistling to work. The title track maintains a key guitar hook and tunes such as "Rockin' Stroll," "Bit Part" and "Ceiling Fan in My Spoon" won't strain your brain.
A cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" was foisted on the "band" (through the years, Dando's the only recurring member) as part of the 1967 film The Graduate's re-release promotion (to try and attract a younger generation?) and, naturally, due to name and melody recognition, became their "hit" and was added as a bonus track to the album's future pressings.
This "collector's edition" adds a b-side ("Shaky Ground"), nine demos that sound better fleshed out on the proper album, and a bonus DVD — "Two Weeks in Australia" — that includes music videos, useless roadside chatter and several live cuts, including an acoustic in-store performance of "Ride With Me" where Dando looks to be performing in his underwear. The album didn't really need expanding. But like Dando himself, it's decently well-intentioned and relatively harmless. (Just lay off the crack, kids.)
Kevin O'Hare - Mass Live April 2008
This 1992 release by the Lemonheads proved to be the Boston band's breakthrough album, taking them beyond the guitar-buzzing blasts they'd been crafting, straight toward a more acoustic-tinged, rockin' brand of pure pop splendor.
Frontman Evan Dando, drummer David Ryan and bassist Juliana Hatfield ripped through 13 songs in about 30 minutes, many of them pretty unforgettable including "Bit Part," the exuberant "Alison's Starting to Happen," and the jacked up cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson," that justifiably gained plenty of notoriety for the trio.
This expanded edition includes 10 bonus songs, most of them demos, as well as a DVD, previously only available on VHS as "Two Weeks in Australia."
While this was the group's now-revered breakthrough, here's at least one vote for it not being the best Lemonheads' album. That spot is reserved for the classic 1993 follow-up disc, "Come On Feel The Lemonheads," which will hopefully see some sort of expanded edition in the future as well. 3.5 stars
Josh Hathaway - Blog Critics April 2008
The Lemonheads were one of those bands not quite at the center of the '90s alternative movement but close enough to it to generate some pop culture name recognition and sell a few records. The band developed a devoted and passionate following that grew during those amazing years when alternative music flourished. Somehow I never got to hear anything by them except their cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson," which I didn't like very much.
Fast forward 16 years.
The Lemonheads' most famous album (dare I say classic) It's A Shame About Ray is being re-released in a remastered, expanded, deluxe package. I'm a decade and a half late, but I'm finally arriving to the Lemonheads' ball.
The first thing I learned when I opened the package? THAT'S WHERE JULIANA HATFIELD CAME FROM! Which, turns out not to be exactly true but it was a bit of a eureka moment. Hatfield fronted her own band, The Juliana Hatfield Trio, throughout the '90s. Her association with Dando and Lemonheads (in addition to her previous work) helped bring her some attention which in turn gave her solo career some momentum. That's another one of those "I know the name but not the music" figures for me.
Listening to the music is giving me some truly bizarre sensations. Music I never listened to before in my life is bringing back memories; or rather the feeling of memories. I don't know if I was this disaffected and disillusioned in 1993, but this record is making me think I was. I remember those years and I think I remember feeling like this. Was it the music that made me feel it or did the music reflect how I already felt? Probably a bit of both. Those are the lenses through which I process It's a Shame About Ray, and I've determined the kid who would have flipped out over this record is still inside me somewhere.
Rock and roll has always been a youth-centered medium. The way most superstar artists found their way to the top was by finding a way to connect to a young audience. Chuck Berry wrote about the teenage years better than anyone. Even though much has changed in the 60 years since Berry wrote his best songs, his insight into the mind of the American teenager are still some of the sharpest ever written. The Beatles, The Stones, Dylan — they all found their way into the hearts and minds of the young during turbulent times when youth culture felt empowered to change the world. The disco revolution of the '70s, while musically revolting, was all about dancing and having a good time. The punk movement later in the decade was all about teenage rebellion. The '80s glam metal scene was about hedonistic pursuit of pleasure and excess: sex, drugs, rock and roll. Think of it as disco without the dancing; the fashion was still bad but the music was, in some instances, marginally better.
The '90s tapped in to something different. The artifice of the preceding years was blasted off the map in the name of authenticity and earnestness. The alienation and awkwardness of adolescence were the driving force of the music; feelings that have been channeled countless ways through the decades.
In the '90s, you had the Kurt Cobain approach; rage turned inward was channeled and redirected outward in the visceral sounds of Nirvana. I connected with that, but I wasn't all that angry all the time. Listening to Lemonheads reminds me of another approach popular during the decade. Rather than raging against the injustice of it all, some bands made heroes out of losers and brought the popular to their knees. Sure everything sucked, but there was something romantic about the shit state of it all. There was a beauty to it, a poetry. Joe Pernice has a song on his Chappaquiddick Skyline record called "Theme To An Endless Bummer." That was the '90s. That's the Lemonheads.
A record I'd never heard has awakened all sorts of silly fragments of nostalgia in my head. Everything that's great about this record now was probably even greater then. I wish I could reach back in time and give my 19-year-old self this album and say, "You're going to thank me for this later."
If you were a Lemonhead fan back in the day, you should seriously consider upgrading your worn out copy of Ray for this new one. The bonus tracks added to the disc aren't all that revelatory for the casual fan, but they're nice to have. The DVD is filled with goodies and extras, again more geared towards the faithful followers of the band.
The real reason to buy this record again is to take a short vacation back to a different time and reconnect with the person you were for a few short years when it all seemed possible but none of it seemed probable.
Carl Cortez - IFMagazine April 2008
By the time Lemonheads arrived with their 1992 disc It's A Shame About Ray, the only original member was singer/songwriter Evan Dando and the punk-pop made with co-founder Bob Deily [sic] in the ‘80s was long gone.
While Lovey, the first major label Lemonheads album found Dando experimenting with country-rock, pop and light punk, it was Ray, with its big jangly guitars that offered up a perfect antidote to the grunge rock Seattle scene that was taking the charts by storm from Nirvana to Pearl Jam.
Now Rayis getting the deluxe “Collector’s Edition” in a new 2-disc release from Rhino/Atlantic Records. Compiling the original album, bonus tracks, demos and a DVD of concert performances and music videos from the era, it’s nice to finally listen to the album on its own merits and not lamenting what the band used to be.
Surprisingly, Rayis still a nice, quick, breezy glide through acoustic pop. Dando’s laid back stylings work perfectly on songs like “Rudderless,” “Allison’s Starting to Happen” and “Confetti,” but it's Juliana Hatfield providing bass and backing vocals that really rounds out and complements Dando’s softer side.
While the demos are rough and ragged, offering little revelation (and production value), the anomaly in the bunch is actually the Simon and Garfunkel remake of “Mrs. Robinson.” Not pressed on the disc when it was first released, when the band was asked to re-record it for a reissue of The Graduate on video, the song took off and the record label tacked it on to the end of repressings of the disc much to the chagrin of die-hard fans. The faster pace of the song, is more in line with older Lemonheads, and never really fit into Ray’s soundscape, but it’s here, for better or worse.
Lemonheads only experienced a brief moment in the spotlight thanks to this album (actually more thanks to "Mrs. Robinson), and their subsequent releases (before they disbanded in the late ‘90s), while having certain high points, never really found their radio calling. Unlike Goo Goo Dolls, who also started off punk and mellowed into mainstream pop balladeers, Dando never really seemed to want the attention and accolades and didn’t have the big, chunky, super-produced hooks to play arenas. Instead, his music hit the same kind of soft swagger, and as evident on his 2003 solo album Baby I'm Bored, at times that’s how the singer-songwriter sounded in a nutshell.
Although Lemonheads (now referred to as The Lemonheads) have reformed and released a better-than-average disc in 2006 with a new one on its way later this year, Raystill presents the band at its most popular.
The songs are short, the melodies sweet and Dando makes the title song such a sad, catchy lullaby that you’ll be humming days after hearing it again. It’s still shocking that 16 years have passed since its original release, but a true testament to a band and their music is how it holds up years later – and It's A Shame About Ray sounds as fresh as it did the day it hit record stores.
And if I have to explain what a record store is, then you’re too young to even know who the Lemonheads were.