The Lemonheads: Varshons II (Fire/Southbound)

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Old Man Blank
The Lemonheads: Varshons II (Fire/Southbound)

We can only look at promise unfulfilled in the wayward and often self-destructive career of Evan Dando, the Lemonhead who foreshadowed so much with the early work (notably the Favourite Spanish Dishes EP and the albums Lovey, It's a Shame About Ray and some of Come On Feel The Lemonheads).

But thereafter the wheels came off, the music more intermittent, the guest appearances were digressions (MC5 particularly) and there were just occasional flashes (Baby I'm Bored, the last album under his own name was 16 years ago).

Ten years ago the Lemonheads delivered their first Varshons (a collection of covers from the likes of Townes, Gram, Leonard, Wire, Tim Hardin and others).

It was interesting enough and some of the treatments courageously different . . . and he covered a GG Allin song.

An enjoyable curiosity but not quite you would have hoped for from Dando/Lemonheads.

Dando has always had a thing for covers: as far back their second album Creator when they took on songs by Charles Manson, Kiss and Suzanne Vega; and FSDishes included the terrific version of Mike Nesmith/Stone Ponies' Different Drum.

Here they rework material by Nick Cave (an excellent Straight to You given a faithful vocal reading against a backdrop of gritty guitar wash), Yo La Tengo (an effortlessly lovely country-nod through Can't Forget), the Jayhawks (bristling pop-rock for Settled Down Like Rain), Bevis Frond (appropriately bouncy psych-pop on Old Man Blank), Lucinda Williams (a sinew'n'gristle Abandoned), John Prine (a respectful acoustic run at the melancholy Speed of the Sound of Loneliness) and even the Eagles (a straight Take It Easy which either requires reinvention or left-alone).

More left-field however is TAQN originally by the Eyes (flat-tack sonic thrash-drone) and an original Unfamiliar – inna reggae stylee – written with Tom Morgan which he'd handed to the GiveGoods.

So, familiar material – some kinda dull like the half-hearted Magnet by NRBQ – alongside the marginalia.

In conclusion, a further career footnote which comes off as another lack-of-vanity project while confirming Evan Dando's status as rock's most gifted stoner slacker.

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