Just Like They Never Left

The Lemonheads (Vagrant)
The Lemonheads

By Kevin Gibson

Like most of the world, I assumed we'd heard the last of Evan Dando's pet project The Lemonheads. The last two releases, dating way back to the end of the 1990s, were the largely disappointing Car Button Cloth and a greatest-hits package. Nothing says "we're finished" like a best-of album.

And this after the band had two strong releases back-to-back in the early 1990s with the timeless It's a Shame About Ray and Come On Feel the Lemonheads. The former produced a sizzling, memorable cover of Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson," while the latter yielded the Lemonheads a radio hit with "Into Your Arms."

And after Cloth - poof, they were gone.

So imagine my surprise to walk into ear X-tacy and see a self-titled CD by the 'Heads. I had to listen to make sure this wasn't just some other band that had adopted the name. I was skeptical at first, but this high-octane album won me over quickly. Why? Because this is Lemonheads the way Lemonheads should sound - brash and cocky and melodic and, well, very Buzzcocks-like.

These are songs about people and life and familiar situations, such as the simple yet endearing song of lost love, "Become the Enemy," which contains this lyric: "Pass the blame and our life away / Pass the blame watch us fall away / It's not our fault, yeah / Things never turn out the way we plan." It's not exactly a revelation, but when you put it into a pop song it works like a charm.

"Pittsburgh," meanwhile, sounds like it was lifted right off of Come On Feel the Lemonheads, carried by Dando's airy vocal delivery and the Ringo-like backbeat.

And there are also some good stories told on this collection; "In Passing" is a narrative from someone dying in the snow after a plane crash and reflecting on the world's hatred. And "Baby's Home" is a country-fried plea to a cheating wife to make the marriage's "promises last / Till the time I can stand on my own." In the end, she doesn't heed his requests and we're treated to something of a surprise ending.

The Lemonheads is just one solid pop-punk song after another and they aren't even all credited to Dando - drummer Bill Stevenson wrote two and co-wrote one with Dando, while former Lemonhead Tom Morgan (who helped Dando write Ray) contributed two songs. This is notable mostly because the Lemonheads have always been Dando fronting a rotating bevy of bass players and drummers, making it almost a solo project in disguise. But Morgan's involvement, along with cameos by former 'Heads bass player Josh Lattanzi and others is probably a clue as to why this album sounds like it was ripped right out of the Lemonheads' heyday.

All I can say is that while I've always appreciated the artistic side to the Lemonheads, it was the group's mastery of pop that I enjoyed the most. If that's your bag, too, then this is well worth a listen. After this, there might be a new greatest-hits package to compile.

Get more Lemonheads juice at www.thelemonheads.net.