Evan Dando, the front man of Lemonheads, is a character that polarizes opinion. To some, his drug usage is castigated with a zeal that is rarely afforded to the other well known musical users.
To others, especially me, he was a symbol of how great the 1990’s could be, if you really did not give an absolute flying fandango about societal expectations and just kind of existed.
However, despite his finely manicured lethargy, amid his personal problems, people seem to forget that Dando/Lemonheads produced two of the absolute great albums of the 1990’s in this album and Car Button Cloth (1996), both of which would certainly joust for the mantle of Dando’s magnum opus if jousting did not require a high tempo attitude.
In my humble, but ultimately correct opinion, It’s a Shame About Ray just about deserves the higher accolades, albeit perhaps for all the wrong reasons, when compared to CBC.
Initially this album does not have the personal density of CBC. It is largely devoid of the sort real lyrical substance that Dando was always capable of. Even in tracks such as Buddy and Rudderless (see below), where Dando is searching for some description of the problems in his life, the impact is totally lost because of the ‘bouncy’ soft indie tunes, that jangle and flutter as if seduced by his Juliana Hatfeld / Blake Babies dalliances. It’s the sort of catchy guitar-pop his fragile, resigned and distinctive voice was simply made to accompany.
The standout tracks are those that you simply cannot get out of your head in Confetti, Bit Part and Its a Shame About Ray. Whilst in essence all such tracks are effectively pop, they are pop with a difference, embodying the kind of pace, progressive guitar riffs and a certain element of rock that most music within the genre fails to deliver. Most importantly they just about manage to stay on the right side of the cutesy precipice that they eventually fell over in the Come on Feel The Lemonheads album, that they released the year after. It was the perfect balance.
It never got any better than this for the Lemonheads and whilst committed fans may point towards their two earliest grunge inflected albums as their most salient points, Dando never really pulled of the whole aggression thing as much as he could slacker langour…and this album is langour at the Lemonheads glorious best.