Friday, March 30, 2007

The Lemonheads

Evan Dando

this blog has had over 255 000 visitors now, that's a ridiculous number, especially considering the fact i don't post albums (apart from one or two which are unreleased) and many of the songs which are posted here are removed after a week or two. welcome everyone, i hope you find some thing interesting and hear something new. don't forget to check out the links (i admit i have been less than thorough with these since my resolution to spend less time blogging and more time on my own music, when i have the time)

work has been hell for weeks now, but what a week I have ahead, which will hopefully make up for it

tomorrow night sees the return of Evan Dando. Evan is a regular visitor to Australia and this time it’s in his latest Lemonheads guise, touring his/their new self-titled album.

the touring band doesn’t include the guys who actually recorded the new album, but I guess it’s hard to get drummer Bill Stevenson and bassist Karl Alvarez (of early '80 punk legends Descendents), The Band's organist Garth Hudson and Dinosaur Jr guitar maestro J Mascis to tag along as your touring band

i have always had good memories of the Lemonheads, from the friend who introduced me to them when we first met with the birthday gift of a compilation tape which contained tracks from Creator and Hate Your Friends. Dirk also gave me a copy of Lovey when it was released; to the time i was driving around Ireland with my sister loudly singing along to Lemonheads tunes for hours at a time amongst the beautiful Irish countryside and villages, to my wedding day when we played the joyous My Drug Buddy as our bridal waltz, and a year later my beautiful and talented wife and i were living in Sydney being startled by the cars flying up King Street

The Lemonheads were one of my favourite bands of the early 1990s and I’m yet to see a bad show from Evan Dando (apart from one show at Perth’s Herdsman Hotel in 1993, when I was out drinking in a smoky pub when I was sick and should have been in bed recuperating and had to leave halfway through the set, but that's a different story)

I’ve seen quite a few other Dando/Lemonhead performances including an in-store appearance at the Oxford St / Tottenham Court road Virgin Mega Store in London in 2002, followed by an impossibly long queue of punters, two floors worth, queued in the Mega Store stairway, people clutching CDs (and some vinyl) wanting photos, autographs, body hair … their little bit of Evan

and the same tour when the media frenzy that was 1993's Lemonheads tripped through Perth

a few years later it was during the smacked out period in Fremantle where many of the audience hadn’t even realized that the person (possibly assumed to be the roadie?) on stage tuning the guitar was in fact the Evan Dando they had paid to see, the same Evan who had been spat out at the other end of the media madness that his life became

and most recently a couple of years ago on the Evan is back in Australia and quickly falling off the wagon "rehab" tour, and the Brisbane show was great fun with Evan in fine form

The Lemonheads' evolution from post-Hüsker Dü hardcore punk rockers to teenage heartthrobs is one of the strangest sagas in alternative music. Initially, the group was a punk-pop trio formed by three teenage Boston suburbanites, but over the years, the band became a vehicle for Evan Dando. Blessed with good looks and a warm, sweet voice, Dando became a teen idol in the early '90s, when Nirvana's success made alternative bands commercially viable. While his simple, catchy songs were instantly accessible, they tended to hide the more subversive nature of his lyrics, as well as his gift for offbeat covers and his devotion to country-rock father Gram Parsons.

After developing his signature blend of pop, punk, and country-rock on several independent records in the late '80s, Dando moved the Lemonheads to Atlantic Records in 1990. Two years later, It's a Shame About Ray made the group into media sensations, as Dando's face appeared on music and teen magazines across America and Britain. Though the Lemonheads were poised to become superstars, the band never quite found the right breakthrough single, and their popularity peaked in the early '90s. Around the same time, Dando descended into severe drug abuse that he curbed by the 1996 release of Car Button Cloth. However, he had missed his chance at stardom -- though the group retained their cult, much of their audience had already slipped away.

The son of a Boston attorney and a fashion model, Evan Dando (vocals, guitar, drums) formed the Lemonheads with his high-school classmates Ben Deily (vocals, guitar, drums) and Jesse Peretz (bass). Initially, the group was called the Whelps, but by the time the band made their debut EP, Laughing All the Way to the Cleaners, they had changed their name to the Lemonheads. Recorded the day after their high-school graduation, Laughing All the Way to the Cleaners was released on the group's own label Huh-Bag. The EP gained the attention of the Boston-based indie label Taang!, who signed the band later that same year. By the beginning of 1987, Doug Trachten had become the band's full-time drummer, leaving Dando and Peretz to share guitar and vocal duties. Hate Your Friends, a speedy hardcore LP that fell halfway between Hüsker Dü and the Replacements, was released in 1987. Trachten left after the record's release, and the band made 1988's Creator with Blake Babies drummer John Strohm.

Released in 1989, Lick expanded the Lemonheads' cult, thanks to a loud power pop cover of Suzanne Vega's "Luka." Following the release of Lick, Dando and Diely had a vicious dispute over the leadership of the Lemonheads, resulting in a temporary breakup. Dando briefly played with the Blake Babies before forming a new version of the Lemonheads with drummer David Ryan. The Lemonheads signed with Atlantic Records in 1990, releasing Lovey, their most accomplished, melodic, and eclectic record to date, later that year. Dando's interest in the band began to wander the following year, as he recorded the solo EP Favorite Spanish Dishes. In 1992, he recorded It's a Shame About Ray, which featured Blake Baby Juliana Hatfield on bass and harmony vocals.

It's a Shame About Ray would prove to be the Lemonheads' breakthrough album, but it didn't become a hit until a cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson" was added to the album several months after its initial release. By the end of 1992, the record had gained momentum, and Dando was being touted as the next alternative star.

By the fall release of 1993's Come On Feel the Lemonheads, Dando had become a minor celebrity, appearing in gossip columns frequently and hanging out with fellow Gen-X icons, including actors like Johnny Depp and musicians like Hole's Courtney Love. His fame was large enough to spark the creation of an anti-Dando fanzine, I Hate Evan Dando. Recorded with the band's new bassist Nic Dalton, Come On Feel was hyped as the album that would make the band superstars, but Dando's antics received more press than the record received airplay, even though "Into Your Arms" nearly scraped the pop charts. During the press junket to promote the album, he confessed to heavy use of hard drugs, including an escapade where he smoked enough crack to ruin his voice for several weeks. His addiction deepened throughout 1994, and he was frequently seen in a drug-induced haze on Oasis' fall tour of Britain. Early in 1995, he launched a solo tour of the U.S. with Epic Soundtracks, after which he played the Glastonbury Festival, where he was booed for appearing several hours late.

Dando sobered up during the remaining months of 1995, though he hadn't completely stopped drinking by the time he recorded Car Button Cloth with a new lineup of the Lemonheads featuring former Dinosaur Jr. drummer Murph, guitarist John Strohm, and bassist Bill Gibson. The album was greeted with mixed reviews upon its fall 1996 release and failed to generate a hit single; furthermore, Dando launched a full-scale tour to support the album.

After a year promoting the record, Dando announced at the 1997 Reading Festival that he was disbanding The Lemonheads and wasn’t seen too often. The Lemonheads and Atlantic Records parted ways, with a final release of a greatest-hits album released in mid-1998.

“I just decided to duck out for a while”, explains Dando of this self-imposed exile from the scene. “I didn't have it in me. It took until I met my wife in 1998 until I got back into making music.” That would be Elizabeth Moses, Newcastle-born English supermodel and musician. Once married in 2000, Dando started to come alive again like Frampton, first with a 2001 live album Live at the Brattle Theater/Griffith Sunset, and then in 2003 with a well-received solo LP, Baby I’m Bored.

In 2004 Evan Dando found himself fronting the MC5, the most incendiary rock band of 1960s America, as lead vocalist in a 41-show tour. And it was hard to miss Dando during 2005 and early 2006, as he toured widely in North America and Europe with various bass players (Juliana Hatfield and Josh Lattanzi) and drummers (Bill Stevenson, Chris Brokaw from Come, George Berz of Dinosaur Jr), and occasionally as a one man electrical wrecking crew.

Memorably, in September 2005, Dando, Stevenson, and Lattanzi played two instantly sold-out shows in London as part of the Don’t Look Back series, where they rocked through It's a Shame About Ray from start to finish, something which was a bit of a trend following Brian Wilson’s very successful Pet Sounds tour (and later Smile).

Late last year saw the release of their latest band/album The Lemonheads, the group’s 2006 release on Vagrant.

I am really looking forward to another fun show tomorrow night.

To celebrate, here is a selection of cover versions by Evan - solo, duo and in various other guises. I'll let you know the most popular cover version in part two

this is only a fraction of the covers Evan has released. wanna hear more? do you know who originally performed these tracks? are you interested in knowing? one of these songs is written by Charles Manson and another was written by a monkee! any cats out there?

Evan Dando - $1000 Wedding (with Juliana Hatfield)

Evan Dando - The Ballad Of El Goodo

Evan Dando - Thirteen

The Lemonheads - Brass Buttons

The Lemonheads - Different Drum

The Lemonheads - Luka

The Lemonheads - Your Home Is Where Your Happy

The Lemonheads - The Outdoor Type

The Lemonheads - Strange

Do you like these tunes? Then why not support the artists (and my blogging habit) by buying some music. Check out the links above or for some good compilation albums check out these links:-

Sunday, March 18, 2007

(Bands from Brisbane, Australia)


I first saw Screamfeeder playing a gig with Something For Kate in early 1998 at the Annandale Hotel in Sydney, only a few weeks after moving to Sydney from Perth. Unfortunately we were yet to learn that bands start playing earlier in Sydney than they had done in Perth, so we missed much of the Screamfeeder set, only catching their explosive final few songs. I also saw Screamfeeder play a great show in a hot tent at the Homeback 1998 festival.

Screamfeeder stepped into the spotlight back in 1992 with the release of their debut album, Flour (out on the unfortunately not-so-permanent Survival label). Together, Kellie, Dean and Tim soon found themselves with a reputation for catchy hooks, meaningful lyrics and potent live shows that won over new fans. Their debut album was soon followed by the brilliant Burn Out Your Name LP in 1993, with yet another record, the Felicitator EP, hitting the shelves not long after in 1994. Busy touring across the nation and winning over audiences and music critics wherever they played, Screamfeeder were, in a nutshell, keeping busy!

It wasn’t just here at home, however, that the band was getting critical kudos – international music fans also got a taste of ‘Feeder sound via the international release of the group’s albums via the American indie TAANG! Records. Heading over to the States and Europe, the trio gained even more underground attention, before returning home and stepping away from Survival and instead signing a deal with Australia’s largest independent label, Shock Records. The excellent Kill Yourself With Music hit the airwaves in 1995, followed by the Seven Year Glitch compilation double LP in 1996. But it was the acclaimed Kitten Licks LP in 1997 that finally saw Screamfeeder break through to the mainstream masses, scoring wide airplay across Triple J and featuring in many local journos “album of the year” lists, all the while selling out shows across the country.

Always one of the nation’s respected indie acts, ever since then Screamfeeder have continued to put out quality recordings in quick succession, one after the other. There’s the Closing Alaska EP (available to US audiences only), with Kitten Licks finding a Stateside release via Time Bomb Records in 1999. There’s the mini-album of cover versions, Home Age, out via Shock, and Rocks On The Soul in 2000.

Circa 2003 Screamfeeder found a new home on Brisbane-based label Rhythm Ace Records, releasing radio fave “Ice Patrol”, the first single from their album Take You Apart (which the band recorded in Melbourne with good pal/producer Magoo at the helm). The band also played a spot on 2003's Splendour In The Grass festival plus their own headlining shows.

2004 saw the release of their 21 track “singles and more” album, demonstrating their furious work ethic and consistent stream of great output from over a decade.

With their 7 track EP "Delusions Of Grandchildren" Screamfeeder return to the classic 3 piece line up. Recorded by Brisbane wonderboy Bryce Moorhead at Zero Interference studios the EP captures Screamfeeder in all their modes - loud and rough, melodic and droning, minimal and experimental.

The journey that is Screamfeeder continues on, as their myspace page says:-

Dean has parted ways with us. He still lives round the corner and we see him all the time, and he still plays in THE WHATS. We have one gig booked this year so far, and joining us on the drums will be the amazing Steph Hughes, ex Wellingtons, amongst others.

Expect ROCK and FUN dials to be set to ridiculously high levels this July.
More info soon.

Screamfeeder - Dart

Screamfeeder - Decaptivated

As an extra special treat for all of my lurkers, who like to watch as well as listen, here's a copy of the clip for Hi C's:-

Do you like these tunes? Then why not support the artists (and my blogging habit) by buying some music. Check out the links above or for some good compilation albums check out these links:-

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

The Rational Academy
(Bands from Brisbane, Australia)

The Rational Academy - Thar Be Pirates!

I first saw The Rational Academy sitting on the floor downstairs at Fat Boys in the Valley. The small room was packed and they were supporting (they even played "White Film" as their closing track with) the undisputed queen of Japanese abstract-electro-pop Noriko Tujiko, who later that night appeared with part time Rational Academy member and the man behind Room 40, Lawrence English.

In mid 2004, Brisbane's Fortitude Valley district battled sound restrictions and repeated venue closures, so some of the kids ran back to rediscover the early 90's DIY culture. Somewhere close by The Rational Academy began writing songs.

Drawn at first by the sonic scree of early Pavement records and a love for pop music accompanied by sombre male / female vocals, Meredith McHugh & Benjamin Thompson began adjusting tuning pegs until melodies and clashing chords worked themselves into a meaningful translation of The Rational Academy - a distant nod in the direction of their indie rock counterparts coupled with tender regard towards the avante garde and experimental composers within contemporary culture. Small DIY attack minus the scene-heavy indifference of Electro-Clash. They joined for some time with drummer David Heathorn, who has since moved down to Melbourne. After much movement and mayhem they were joined by Paul Donoughue & Matt Jonas.

Where The Academy have differed in their approach is the inclusion of local sound artist, composer and head of the experimental ROOM 40 label, Lawrence English, in the production seat transforming the simple pop meanderings of two guitars vocals and drums into involved sonic investigations of sound and space.

In their time together The Rational Academy have shared the stage with the likes of Touring American groups Xiu Xiu, Novi Split (with whom they have since collaborated for a split release), Japanese Electro Pop marvels Tujiko Noriko and Tenniscoats, Spoon (USA), Dear Nora (USA), The Blow (USA), Sarah Dougher (USA), Scout Nibblet (UK), Art of Fighting, Love of Diagrams, Deloris, Guy Blackman, The Crayon Fields, Dappled Cities Fly and local stalwarts Screamfeeder, Denvar, Turnpike, Shuriken, The Zebras and Iron On.

The Rational Academy will be playing with Deerhoof on April 4th at The Zoo, and will also be heading down to Sydney and Melbourne in May with a new lineup that includes Paul Donoughue from Tragic/Athletic on the Drum Kit and Matt Jonas from legendary Brisbane noise-pop kids Shuriken charting his way through unknown Academy Bass Guitar territory.

The band have been writing lots of new songs and recording them with Todd Dixon at various locations around Brisbane. A full length record is expected mid year!

Before heading off The Rational Academy will be playing The Zoo with Deerhoof plus one other Brisbane show at Ric's on the 20th of April with supports yet to be announced.

Do yourself a favour !

The Rational Academy - deer

Thursday, March 08, 2007

The Ballad Of El Goodo

Big Star

I initially started listening to Big Star because of Teenage Fanclub when I bought their Bandwagonesque album, which was loudly proclaimed as having strong Big Star influences ... or perhaps it could be considered more of a reworking or a tribute to the power pop of the early seventies. Either way, it was enough to spark my interest.

So who were Big Star, you ask? The original and current line-up included:-
Chris Bell - (1971-1972)
Alex Chilton - (1971-74 / 1993- )
Andy Hummel - (1971-73)
Jody Stephens - (1971-74 / 1993- )
John Lightman (1974)
Jonathan Auer - (1993- )
Ken Stringfellow - (1993- )

You might recognise the last two names as members of The Posies, who were included in my compilation of Big Star covers last week.

The quintessential American power pop band, Big Star remains one of the most mythic and influential cult acts in all of rock & roll. Originally led by the singing and songwriting duo of Alex Chilton and Chris Bell, the Memphis-based group fused the strongest elements of the British Invasion era -- the melodic invention of the Beatles, the whiplash guitars of the Who, and the radiant harmonies of the Byrds -- into a ramshackle but poignantly beautiful sound which recaptured the spirit of pop's past even as it pointed the way toward the music's future. Although creative tensions, haphazard distribution, and marketplace indifference conspired to ensure Big Star's brief existence and commercial failure, the group's three studio albums nevertheless remain unqualified classics, and their impact on subsequent generations of indie bands on both sides of the Atlantic is surpassed only by that of the Velvet Underground.

The roots of Big Star lie in the group Ice Water (also known as Rock City), formed in 1971 by singer/guitarist Bell in association with guitarist Steve Ray, bassist Andy Hummel, and drummer Jody Stephens. Ray left the group a short time after its inception and was soon replaced by Chilton, the onetime Box Tops vocalist who was just 16 years old when the group topped the pop charts with their 1967 classic, "The Letter." Chilton had recently returned to Memphis after attempting to mount a solo career in New York City; he first played with Bell years earlier in a high school cover band, and with his arrival Ice Water rechristened itself Big Star, borrowing the name from a local supermarket chain. Recording soon commenced at the local Ardent Studios, where Bell occasionally worked as an engineer and session guitarist; despite solid critical notice and some radio airplay, their brilliant 1972 debut, #1 Record, nevertheless fell prey to the distribution problems of the newly-formed Ardent label's parent company Stax -- more often than not, the album simply never made its way to retailers.

In the meantime, Bell and Chilton continued to butt heads over Big Star's direction -- the former envisioned a primarily studio-oriented project, while the latter preferred performing live; moreover, Chilton's past success in the Box Tops guaranteed him the lion's share of attention from listeners and critics, minimizing Bell's own contributions in the process. In late 1972 Bell finally left the band -- his subsequent attempts to mount a solo career proved largely fruitless, with only a spectacular solo single, "I Am the Cosmos," receiving official release prior to his untimely death in a 1978 car crash. (A posthumous solo compilation, also titled I Am the Cosmos, was finally issued to unanimous critical acclaim in 1992.) Following Bell's exit, Big Star briefly struggled on as a three-piece before disbanding, with Chilton returning to his stalled solo career; months later, he reteamed with Hummel and Stephens to play a local music writers' convention, and the performance was so well-received that they decided to make the reunion permanent.

Big Star's second album, 1974's Radio City, remains their masterpiece -- ragged and raw guitar-pop infused with remarkable intensity and spontaneity. It also contained perhaps their best-known song, the oft-covered cult classic "September Gurls." (Another highlight, "Back of a Car," bears the unmistakable input of Chris Bell, although the duration and extent of his return to duty is unknown.) Distribution difficulties again undermined whatever hopes of commercial success existed, however, and Hummel soon announced his resignation; Chilton and Stephens recruited bassist John Lightman for a handful of East Coast live dates, including a WLIR radio broadcast later issued as Big Star Live. Work on a planned third album soon began, but the sessions proved disastrous as Chilton, reeling from years of music industry exploitation and frustration, effectively sabotaged his own music -- where Radio City teetered on the brink of collapse, the new songs tumbled over completely, culminating in one of the most harrowingly bleak pop records ever made. An album's worth of material was completed and shelved, and then Big Star was no more.

The story might have ended there, but in 1978 the third Big Star album was finally issued overseas -- variously titled Third and/or Sister Lovers, it appeared for years in essentially unauthorized versions containing neither the complete session nor the proper sequencing. Still, the record earned a significant cult following, and with the emergence of the nascent power-pop movement, it became increasingly clear just how prescient Big Star's music had been. Countless alternative rock bands -- R.E.M., the Replacements, the dB's, and Teenage Fanclub, to name just four -- cited the band's enormous influence in the years to follow.

Chilton and Stephens reunited in 1993 with Jon Auer and Ken Stringfellow of the American pop band The Posies taking the place of Bell (who had died in a car crash in 1978) and Hummel (who had left music for an engineering career) at the University of Missouri. For an encore, the band performed Gene Chandler's "Duke of Earl," reflecting Chilton's marked, post-Big Star interest in early rock and roll. This appearance was followed by tours of Europe and Japan, as well as an appearance on The Tonight Show. Other Big Star releases include Columbia: Live at Missouri University 4/25/93, a recording of the first reunion show; Big Star Live, a 1974 radio broadcast from Long Island; and Nobody Can Dance, a recording of the last Big Star show as a trio, performed at Overton Park in Memphis.

The reunited Big Star returned to Ardent Studios in early 2004 to work on a new album, called In Space. With songs cowritten by Chilton, Stephens, Auer, and Stringfellow, the album was released on September 27, 2005 on Rykodisc.

Currently, there are rumours around a film on Big Star's history, based on Rob Jovanovic's book Big Star: The Story of Rock's Forgotten Band.

While compiling the tracks for my last post, I was struck by how many covers there are of the "Thirteen" and "The Ballad Of El Goodo".

As a follow up to the last post, I have decided to also put up my favourite of these cover versions for your extra added listening pleasure. This time around it's "The Ballad Of El Goodo".

The Lemonheads - The Ballad Of El Goodo

Matthew Sweet - The Ballad Of El Goodo

Colin Meloy (The Decemberists) - The Ballad Of El Goodo

Ted Leo - The Ballad Of El Goodo

Big Star - The Ballad Of El Goodo

As an extra special treat for all of my lurkers, here's a live recording of Big Star playing The Ballad Of El Goodo in Missouri in 1993:-

Do you like these tunes? Then why not support the artists (and my blogging habit) by buying some music. Check out the links above or for some good compilation albums check out these links:-