I suppose it could have been easy to forget about the Lemonheads. They were a great band but they seemed to have burned out to quickly to make a significant mark. Evan Dando was either too reckless or too restless to let the band gather enough steam to garner mass appeal, and I for one tossed the Lemonheads into the pile of bands that almost reached their potential. That was a mistake, for two reasons. First of all, the Lemonheads are still with us, having reformed in 2005. Second, they actually did reach their potential, on "It's a Shame about Ray."
Released in 1992, "Ray" stood out like a glittering prize among the grunge and gangster rap that dominated the market. For its time, it was almost too pleasant, with more melodic hooks and intriguing lyrics than a boatload of contemporary disks. "Confetti" had a lyrical hook that was impossible to shake ("He kinda shoulda sorta would've loved her if he could've..."), while the title song sported a melody so timeless that it seems to have always been there. Lead singer and principal songwriter Evan Dando had the `wistful and cute' thing down pat, and women seemed almost magnetically attracted to him. With so much going right, this band had everything it needed to become gigantic, but coulda shoulda woulda....
The thing is, while the band faded to grey, the songs remained, and hearing them again is a revelation of sorts. In retrospect, "It's a Shame about Ray" has everything an album needs to be considered classic. It plays like a greatest hits record, with virtually every song making an impact. "Alison's Starting to Happen," "(I Just Want a) Bit Part (in Your Life)" and "My Drug Buddy" are impossible to forget, so how did I? Add in their rocking interpretation of Paul Simon's "Mrs. Robinson," and you have a virtually perfect pop album, so why didn't the world acknowledge this in 1992? Why wasn't the album on every critic's `best of' list for that year? It didn't receive the recognition it deserved back then, but we now have a chance to reassess the situation. The Collector's Edition not only contains the original album in full, but adds a slew of bonus material too, including a DVD disk that provides an intriguing visual insight to Evan Dando's world in 1992. If the Lemonheads never recorded anything else, "It's a Shame about Ray" should assure their status as one of the best bands of the nineties, even if I almost forgot about them.
A Tom Ryan