The Lemonheads - It’s A Shame About Ray - Review
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critics' view

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…

Eamonn Stack
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The BBC's album reviews ended in 2013, although the pages are archived for retrospective reading.
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