The Lemonheads - It's a Shame About Ray (Cover Artwork)

The Lemonheads

It's a Shame About Ray (1992)


It's a "shame" this wasn't reviewed yet. The first time I listened to the Lemonheads was back in the '90s on local Oklahoma station, ROCK 100.5 THE KATT. They played the song "My Drug Buddy", and it fit well within the usual catalogue of nothing but the Black Crowes and Stone Temple Pilots. I guess Evan Dando did something right, because It's a Shame About Ray caught alternative music's mainstream attention, and the band went from being a college rock group to MTV darlings–at least for a little while. You see, these days Dando is traveling around the world, playing this album front to back. It's a product of its time and meant something back then, but hopefully the jaded younglings of today can find something to latch onto themselves.

Needless to say, IaSAR is a near-flawless rock album. Each song is structured nicely and flows together, like all albums should aspire to do. Music this honest and heartfelt needs to be heard more, and as far as quality goes, there is not one stinker to be found, unless you just can't stand their cover of "Mrs. Robinson", which was tagged along at the end once it hit big time. So, going back to the first-mentioned song, "My Drug Buddy", you will begin to unravel the confines of Dando's darkest of aspects. Knowing how things like drug addiction and internal fighting caused the band to break up later, you get a real sense of peeking into a person's life. It's actually quite humbling to have someone be this honest about one's own struggles within. And of course, not to forget the other album highlights such as "Rockin' Stroll", which always reminded me of Buffalo Tom or early Dinosaur Jr., and "Confetti", which has this very nice, catchy chorus and great guitars, plus the tight drumming of David Ryan.

Another remarkable song is the title track. A little number that's very big on deep, emotional guitars and inspiring writing that seems only Dando could muster. A note to be made here is the great backup singing of Juliana Hatfield, who also played bass on the album. It's always a tossup as to which songs are my favorites, but after many years have passed by, I can go ahead and say that I love them all. Even the less well-known numbers, like the immediate bleakness of "Bit Part" with its opening shout of "I just want a bit part in your life!" and the country twang influence on "Hannah & Gabi", seem to grab hold of the listener and demand attention.

The '90s have been over for a very, very long time, and this album is just about 20 years old. It's a bit shocking to know how much this has aged, and yet remain a classic. Sure, I mentioned that it was a product of its time, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. We still have the opportunity to go back and re-listen to what's been said and done, and it's nice to know music that was this good. Re-dig it...