The Lemonheads

by: The Lemonheads

Many bands break up at the right time, or at least a little past it, but the Lemonheads' disbandment seemed premature, particularly because it didn't seem like they officially broke up; they just faded away. For Lemonheads leader Evan Dando, it was a surprisingly quick fall from glory -- or at least from being a Sassy star and one of People's Most Beautiful People, touted as the next big thing after Kurt Cobain, to being alt-rock's most notorious also-ran. Not long after the group's fourth album for Atlantic, 1996's Car Button Cloth, he quietly pulled the plug on the group and slinked away from the spotlight, taking a long, long time to recharge. After seven years, he resurfaced with a sleepy but likeable solo debut called Baby I'm Bored in 2003, and that activity apparently lit a fire underneath Dando, since three years later he reunited the Lemonheads, releasing an eponymous album that fall. The album only confirms the suspicion that the group should never have broken up -- unless that Dando needed the time to sober up and get refocused, since he certainly couldn't have made a record as tight and direct as this in the mid-'90s. Lord knows he tried, but for as wonderful as much of 1993's Come on Feel the Lemonheads and Car Button Cloth are, both are ragged and filled with aimless filler, two things thankfully missing from The Lemonheads. Like the 1992 power pop classic It's a Shame About Ray, this is brief, lively, and tuneful, filled with two-to-three-minute songs that make their point and then get out of the way. If this isn't as incandescent, joyful, and effervescent as It's a Shame About Ray, that's because this is the work of a different band, one that's a bit older and not quite as exuberant, but one that nevertheless displays a renewed vigor and sense of purpose. And not only does the band sound excellent -- whether they're working as a trio or being goosed along by J Mascis, who provides typically excellent guitar on occasion here -- but they have a good batch of songs here that add up to Dando's most consistent album in years. They're zippier and catchier than anything on Baby I'm Bored, and even if there aren't any outright immediate classics along the lines of "If I Could Talk I'd Tell You," song for song this builds into not only a strong comeback, but one of the group's better records. The best thing that can be said about The Lemonheads is that it sounds like the album Dando and company should have released in 1995 -- and that it sounds like they could turn another of these out soon and that it'd be every bit as good. Which is the right kind of return for a band that should never have gone away in the first place. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine

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