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Here’s one from a band I loved for a year or two and then largely forgot about, Lemonheads It’s A Shame About Ray.  Like everyone else in the known universe I fell for their grunge-lite back in ’92 and had a big man crush on Evan Dando to boot – know that picture of him on the front cover of Come On Feel The Lemonheads? that’s how I look to myself inside my own brain.  I played out at least one cassette copy of this album back in the day, I know I got them early because my copy didn’t have the cover of ‘Mrs Robinson’, which was added to later editions of the album and ‘Drug Buddy’ hadn’t been toned down in the name of global success to ‘Buddy’.  My copy is a pretty average condition rerelease I picked up cheap on eBay ten years ago.

The seeming overnight success of the Lemonheads was deceptive, It’s A Shame About Ray was the band’s fifth album.  I’ve heard the earlier chaotic low-fi punky albums but there was nothing there that I remember worth going back for, so this album was our launch pad.  Now I must ‘fess up to having a real problem with Juliana Hatfield, she plays bass here which is fine – no issues.  It’s just when she opens her mouth and starts off with that whiney child’s voice of hers, yuk!  her backing vocals really take the shine off a couple of the tunes here, ‘Bit Part’ in particular.  Were I multi-zillionaire I would arrange for a remastered rerelease of It’s A Shame About Ray removing all trace of them, oh and I’d probably pay to have a disease cured too; definitely do the remaster though.

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Draft inner sleeve design for my ‘1537 Zillionaire remix’

Anyway griping aside, I enjoyed all the bits of the album I always used to, the great cover of ‘Mrs Robinson’ which I’ve thrown myself around many a packed dance floor to and {Sacrilege Alert} I prefer to the original, the gentle swoon of the title track and the end of ‘Rudderless’ where Dando sings ‘like a ship without a rudder’ over and over again.  Oh and I’ve always been a sucker for the sad lilting swell of ‘Drug Buddy’, which carries echoes of the Band to these tired ears.  Oh and I really like the perky marital break-up on ‘Confetti’ too. Oh, and the shouty bit at the beginning of ‘Bit Part’, before you-know-who comes along and spoils it*.

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I also had no idea that my favourite track on the album, ‘Frank Mills’ was a cover (from the musical Hair), call me culturally bald, but I didn’t realise.  In fact it spoilt the song for me a little, I thought it was by far the Lemonheads’ best lyric too.  It’s the old Jane’s Addiction-didn’t-write-Jane-Says all over again, for me! What next? you’ll be telling me Joe Cocker didn’t write ‘With a Little Help From My Friends’?! or that Sex Pistols didn’t write ‘My Way’?! Get thee behind me Satan!

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Okay, okay so I admit it, I pretty much like it all when I think about it, even the samier tracks like ‘Kitchen’ and ‘The Turnpike Down’.  What Lemonheads had going for them was a really good, melodic sound, some good playing and perfect timing.  It’s A Shame About ray came out at exactly the right time and it’s proportions of grunge, country, pop and acoustica were exactly right, it’s the sort of album that would and did sound great in a coffee shop.  Now I know that sounds like I’m damning it with faint praise but that’s not my intention at all, it’s a pleasant 32 minutes worth of music with a couple of great tunes, nothing more nothing less.

If Nirvana were my generation’s Beatles, in terms of cultural impact, then Lemonheads were our generation’s Mamas and the Papas – occasionally great tune, but comparatively lightweight**.  Sometimes that’s just fine and dandy, not every record needs to set your very soul on fire, some were made to be enjoyed a lot and then pulled out occasionally and enjoyed a bit again for nostalgic reasons.  It’s definitely not a shame about It’s A Shame About Ray.

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386 Down.

*no, not Voldemort, Juliana Hatfield – much worse, better nose but much worse.

**I know, I know most groups never record anything 10% as good as ‘California Dreaming’, but I’m playing that one down for my metaphorical purposes here.

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20 thoughts on “Lightweight

  1. So My Drug Buddy became Drug Buddy and now Buddy? I haven’t heard anybody refer to it as Buddy yet thankfully, except here. I love Hatfield & I like how her voice is so light & pretty, and I especially enjoy all her more recent stuff. Oh wellll, different folks.. Still fun to read this, LHs are my favorite so I like coming across these type of posts even if they’re not dishing out the praise I give them.
    (plus I like your lego thing!)

    1. Hello! Welcome to my palace of nonsense, thanks for coming around.

      I loved LH, although I lost my patience after Come On … They were boss live, my wife still swoons at Evan Dando’s name!

      As for Julianna H – sorry! Maybe I’m just a bit too macho and cynical for her voice. Grr!

      1. I like your palace of nonsense. Come On IS disjointed a bit, I forget if you wrote that or somebody else did in the comments. The tracks don’t mesh together that well but they’re great songs on their own and they’ve grown on me. I LOVE his solo album. I love all the pre-Ray stuff and he does the best covers. I’m gonna stop here because this sounds like I’m writing you a weird note during math class about how much I like the Lemonheads.
        It’s okay!-you don’t have to like JH.

  2. This was one of my favourites for a very long time and glad to read someone else finds Juliana Hatfield a tad annoying (though admittedly I had no problem with it years ago when I got hooked on the album).

    I also really liked Come On Feel … and Car Button Cloth … and the self-titled record from a few years ago.

    1. I fancied Julianna Hatfield to the point where I bought her 1st LP, entirely unheard first though. It got sold for beer money not too long afterwards…

      Come on Feel has some great tracks on, but ends up being a bit disjointed. I gave up on them after that, or just got side-tracked by other bands, so I’ve not heard any of the others.

      Thanks for stopping by my Palace of Nonsense (capital letters, obvs.).

  3. One of those happy poppy grungy albums that only get better over age. I agree that in a perfect world a remaster should be in the works.

  4. Funny how the direction you’re coming from alters the perspective. I heard ‘Alison’s starting to happen’, loved its guitar-based melodicism, and decided that grunge lite and power pop heavy might be one and the same.
    Enjoyed spinning the little silver disc of this. Cheers.

  5. A favorite from my senior year in high school, and my copy was an early one as well. I bought this cassette before most folks knew who they were in my high school. Not bragging, it’s just a fact.

    Dando had the perfect voice. It was masculine, yet he had a stoned sweetness that came through as well. No one has topped his voice in the indie rock scene since. They just sort of fizzled after this album, unfortunately. And I agree about Hatfield. I did lust after her, but only when she was not singing. The Betty Boop meets little girl voice was distracting.

    1. Good point about his voice. Ever hear Ben Lee’s song ‘Wish I was him’ about just how ace it would be to be Evan Dando? An old Grand Royal fave.

      1. Speaking of Kathleen Hanna, if you haven’t seen it you should watch the documentary ‘The Punk Singer: A Film About Kathleen Hanna’. Great movie and very insightful.

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