Finally we’ve crawled to the end of the letter L… and all those Lucksmiths albums. It’s been a long arduous journey. We started back on January 1. Forty or so reviews in 6½ months isn’t very impressive is it? But that did span several countries. It also spanned the usual diverse range of artists. Looking at the resultant rankings, it would seem lighter indie pop won out, although soulfulness is as valued as always…
- Lemonheads – “It’s a Shame About Ray”
- The Lucksmiths – “What Bird Is That?”
- The Lucksmiths – “Happy Secret”
- Bettye Lavette – “I’ve Got My Own Hell to Raise”
- The Lucksmiths – “A Good Kind of Nervous”
- The Lucksmiths – “Why That Doesn’t Surprise Me“
- The Lucksmiths – “The Green Bicycle Case”
- Bettye Lavette – “The Scene of the Crime”
- The La’s – “The La’s”
- Love Me – “Love Me”
- The Lemonheads – “Come on Feel the Lemonheads”
- LCD Soundsystem – “LCD Soundsystem”
- The Liquor Giants – “The Liquor Giants”
- Ray Lamontagne – “Till the Sun Turns Black”
- Led Zeppelin – “Led Zeppelin IV”
As has become tradition, here’s a “L” track that didn’t get a review, but is an old fave of mine:
This is an excellent EP from The Lemonheads…
But unfortunately the three or four quality tracks brought along some stinker friends.
This album could be one of the biggest weapons in the war on drugs, as clearly the Colombian nose candy had really started to wreak havoc on olde Evan by now.
Sure he occasionally still penned a nice little poppy ditty. If I Could Talk I’d Tell You is a delicate, summery number. Tenderfoot is the only vaguely rocky track on here to not sound like a dreary grunge c-grader.
It’s not a good sign that the other tracks that aren’t skip-worthy are covers. Everyone’s favourite ode to violence against woman (Knoxville Girl) reminds us that Dando kinda wants to be Gram Parsons.
The cover of Smudge‘s Outdoor Type is a curious one. I’ve always loved the original with its clever lyrics about the urbane sense of failed masculinity (and the lies on which a relationship might be built). The original was refreshingly shambolic and a little dirgy:
The Lemonheads version rips a riff off Billy Bragg, and works very well for Dando’s voice (and image), but somehow leaves me feeling a little cheated:
So does the rest of this album.
File under: Most of these things stank
It was always going to be tough to follow-up ‘It’s a Shame About Ray‘, but The Lemonheads didn’t do a bad job here.
On a pure good song count this albums runs ‘Ray’ close. The problem is that there are a pile of not-quite-right tracks that get in the way and pad this thing out so that it feels a little like Evan Dando looked a few years later when he got off the nose -candy and went all late-era Brando (maybe Evan Brando).
The front row line up of gentle indie-pop gems are Rest Assured, It’s About Time, Into Your Arms and Being Around. The sound is a bit brighter and cleaner than on the previous release, the guitar work more country, and Dando’s collaborations with Aussie Tom Morgan just as strong. To keep up the Antipodean flavour, Into Your Arms is actually a cover of a Hummingbirds tune (but livened up considerably).
Backing up those first-graders are some decent fall-backs in the freak out Style, the silly Big Gay Heart, Down About it and You Can Take It With You.
If they’d just left it at that this album would be neck and neck with its predecessor. Unfortunately, the fat friends spoil the party somewhat. I am still happy for it Being Around:
File under: Feels flabby but fine
Here’s an 18-year-old album that I’ve actually listened to a lot in the past few months.
The CD’s never gathered much dust since Dando and co created a wave of indie-slacker-pop back around 1992-3. However, the recent ‘playing the album in entirety’ show in Melbourne got me listening to it with newfound intent.
And I was happy. Still am. This is album has never tried to be anything more than what it is – a slightly sloppy collection of folky power-pop built around some neat little riffs, some decent rhythms and some deceptively tight vocals.
Of course, this almost qualifies as an Aussie release, given that many of the strongest songs on the album came from the pen of Tom Morgan (of Smudge fame). His approach gels perfectly with Dando’s, with both favouring the cascading vocal as pop hook.
The albums lacks a big single (my version doesn’t have the Mrs Robinson cover), yet each and every track is memorable. From the baby stroller anthem Rocking Stroll to the infectious Rudderless, the portentious My Drug Buddy to the effusive Alison’s Starting to Happen, it’s a soundtrack to a sunny slacker lifestyle:
As I was typing this review, Australia just kicked their 3rd goal in the Asian Cup semi… I reckon Dando was equally chuffed when he recorded this album. Or he should have been.
File under: Everybody loves Raymond
This is a rare album in my collection in that whenever I hear a track off it at random I really can’t work out who it is.
There is very little to connect this debut release to the subsequent breakthrough works from Evan Dando and associates.
Back in the day, the Lemos where yet another hardcore-ish punk band, trying to channel some of that Hüsker Dü energy.
They don’t hit any such heights however. They are a little closer to the Descendents in that the tracks scream along at rapid pace (and for short periods – most tracks run less than 90 seconds). The songwriting has occasional moments where it steps beyond the simple.
As suits the genre, the sillier tracks have gre atersticking power (e.g. Rabbit and the charmingly Sid Vicious-does-My-Way-like version of a ‘classic’ I’ve heard far too often during my reviews, namely Amazing Grace).
What is missing here is any real hint of the softly slacker Dando voice. He shares vocal duties from track to track, but it’s a struggle to pick which ones are his. He doesn’t even take lead on the best track on the album:
So don’t pick up this album expecting to hear jangle-pop – it’s just low-rent punk.
File under: But there’s not much to like about them
I encountered mop-haired indie-pop wunderkind Ben Kweller when he was the mysterious third amigo in The Bens (alongside Folds and Lee).*
He came across as a nice hybrid of these two and almost every other upbeat, guitar-wielding, power-pop folk-rocker you can imagine.
This debut captures that first experience perfectly. Ben bashes out eleven happy, slacker-friendly little gems, all guaranteed to have you swaying and jumping and grabbing a tennis racket.
This is Beck without any of the gadgetry, Weezer with no cynicism, the Lemonheads without the opiates.
Ben has a rosy take on the world that is infectious (while not cloying), and an ability to construct songs that seem throwaway but are actually deftly constructed memes you couldn’t ignore if you tried. The pick are Wasted and Ready, Falling, Walk on Me and Commerce, TX:
Anyone think he borrowed a Nirvana riff on this one?
File under: Sha(mbolic but) sha(rp)
*Alas the Bens never delivered their promised longplayer, and the sole EP (which is a ripper) went unreviewed.
Posted in K
Tagged album, album review, Beck, Ben Folds, Ben Kweller, Ben Lee, CD review, music, music review, The Bens, The Lemonheads, Weezer
This a band I know so very little about. I think I may have bought this CD second-hand on the recommendation of a buddy back in the mid-90s.
The album is a snapshot of a world that doesn’t really exist anymore, for this decrepit 38 year old anyway.
Five Eight sprung from somewhere in the States, probably a college town. They take the more power pop side of Husker Du and presage the much more successful sound of Weezer.
They deliver a series of guitar-driven tunes, typically chronicling early 20s apathy and late teen misdemeanors. It is classic slacker rock, but of the shorter haired variety.
Stanley is the most successful effort. A few too many tracks sound like the faux skate punk Blink 182 ‘were to ‘master’ later.
The album is dated also by a ‘where I was when I heard Kurt topped himself’ tale, but at least the ambivalent vibe is retained with a ‘whatever’ tone…
Perhaps bands are still mining this rich musical vein, but for me this sits alongside Buffalo Tom, The Lemonheads and a few others as my mid-20s indulgence.
File under: Some rugby pun