By: Eric Greenwood
Mastering slacker ennui just before Pavement made it trendy, Evan Dando forged a career out of backhanded compliments and unabashed, dopey sincerity. While the name The Lemonheads denotes a band, it's been Dando's show from the beginning. With a revolving cast of part-time members, Dando swindled his way onto a major label via too-clever-by-half covers of Suzanne Vega's "Luka" and Mike Nesmith's "Different Drum", which served as tongue in cheek diversions from his punk-ish roots.
With his teenybopper good looks and his knack for cheap melodies, Dando embodied the part of a MTV darling by the time yet another cover made him famous- the atrocious misappropriation of Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson", which even Dando himself despises to this day. But the album that preceded that commercial faux pas remains the finest achievement of his strikingly uneven career.
At the time, It's A Shame About Ray sounded like more heart-on-your-sleeve folk-punk from a guy you'd just as soon beat up as listen to, but, putting aside any knee-jerk reaction to Dando's fame-whore tendencies, the album boasted an impressive arsenal of hooks and undeniably memorable songs, making it a hands-down classic. Dando's bored and detached voice slipped seamlessly into Elvis Costello-style brashness on perfect pop gems like "Rudderless" and "Ceiling Fan in My Spoon."
It's that sense of brashness that Dando is trying recapture on this self-titled return from obscurity. With two former Descendents as his bandmates this go round, Dando leans more towards his poppier-punk side. Though the songs lack the immediacy and built-in nostalgia of anything off It's A Shame About Ray, they do showcase the fact that Dando's unfettered sense of melody is still intact. At times endearing but also hokey and indulgent with way too many misplaced lead guitar squawks (courtesy of J. Mascis), The Lemonheads actually sounds like The Lemonheads just before they got good