Before listening to this album all I knew about lead Lemonhead Evan Dando was that he was considered something of an alterna-hunk with a major drug problem who likes to act like a complete idiot at Smashing Pumpkins concerts (from personal experience, though in fairness to him that was a long time ago, 1996 to be exact). Now I know that’s he’s also a moderately talented songwriter, and since he’s such a remarkably unremarkable singer these songs are only as good as his songwriting allows. On simple yet engaging pop songs such as the title track (the best song here), “My Drug Buddy,” and “Bit Part” he does quite well for himself, with help from longtime pal Juliana Hatfield’s girlishly ethereal backing vocals. Despite some stellar reviews that inspired me to check out this album in the first place, much of the rest of the material here is pretty (and similarly) unremarkable, passing by pleasantly enough but not registering much of an impression, either lyrically or musically. The Lemonheads are a simple pop rock band who offer simple pop pleasures, but on the more adventurous side “Hannah & Gabi” is a convincing stab at country rock, "Frank Mills" is an earnest acoustic showcase, and “Kitchen” has some inventive musical touches to go along with a toe tapping beat and memorable lyrics. "Confetti" and "The Turnpike Down" are also above average, but "Rockin' Stroll" is a short riff rocker that just sort of comes and goes, while "Rudderless," "Alison's Starting To Happen," and "Ceiling Fan In My Spoon" are largely undone by unsatisfying choruses. Generally regarded as the band's best album, It's a Shame About Ray is indeed a solid effort, but it's also pretty faceless and is probably not an album that I'll return to too often. Note: An amped-up cover version of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” was added to the album after its successful inclusion in the video for the 25th Anniversary release of The Graduate.
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