Review: The Lemonheads – Come On Feel The Lemonheads (30th anniversary reissue)

Artwork for The Lemonheads' album Come On Feel The Lemonheads

A vital lookback by The Lemonheads.

Sometimes when a series of reissues comes around it’s hard to maintain enthusiasm.

“Greeeaaat! Album X is coming back out again, with extra stuff, that’s awesome,” can eventually lead to, “Ok, album Y is it, well, I might take a listen when I get a chance.”

The good news is that repackaging fatigue is definitely not something you’re going to experience with the 30th anniversary version of Come On Feel The Lemonheads, and not just because the original was a high watermark both for post-grunge fuzz pop but also for the band’s creative output. It rocked. And it still rocks.

But let’s back up for just a second. Following the unexpected, Mrs. Robinson inspired success of 1992’s It’s A Shame About Ray, under label pressure and with the recording backdrop of a ruined LA, chief Head Evan Dando somehow managed to upgrade his songwriting, branching even further away from the group’s origins in snotty 80’s hardcore.

The results were a triumph, moving through suit-pleasing and less so guises with a familiar disregard for continuity. The opening half dozen tracks were at scruffy levels of near perfection: Opener The Great Big No, which was about and featured on backing vocals Julianna Hatfield, cast the duo as an alt-rock king and queen, whilst Into Your Arms – a song pilfered from bassist Nic Dalton’s side band the Love Positions – turned the group into hit makers and permanent MTV fodder.

And still they came, a train of great manifested It’s About Time’s mellifluous balladry, the glorious thrash of Down About It, Paid To Smile’s dismissal of talking heads and Big Gay Heart’s exercise in ram raiding Gram Parsons.

Too much sugar rots your teeth however, and a chemically enhanced Dando had plenty of mischief in his heart as well. Here Style (completely reimagined later as Rick James Style) outlined the junkie’s conundrum explicitly with, “I don’t wanna come down/I Just want a killer line/And figure it out myself”, Belinda Carlisle reprised her LA punk roots on I’ll Do It Anyway, whilst Favourite T was a breakup song where the jilted don took to cross dressing in his ex’s clothes.

Critics were eager to point out that at times eccentric pivoted into overindulgence, and hearing the country wonk of Being Around plus an abstract finale in The Jello Fund they were admittedly presented with enough ammunition with which to make their point.

Which brings us to the here, and now.

It wouldn’t feel like a bone fide exercise without some additional material of course and a second physical disc splits, the first part comprising of acoustic renditions which span the rudimentary (Big Gay Heart, Be Around) to the sublime (a superior version of Into Your Arms) and on to the remarkable (the blues-soul of Rick James Style, Deep Bottom Cove’s tragi-folk).

The second is more cosmopolitan, including suitably down-home live covers of The Flying Burrito Brothers’ Streets Of Baltimore and Little Black Egg, and an impossibly sweet take on Victoria Williams’ Frying Pan.

Remarkably, one song is worth the admission fee alone however as a faithful, dusty working of Cole Porter’s Ms. Otis Regrets – made famous originally by Ella Fitzgerald – succinctly underlines the group’s fearless mindset of the time.

Sometimes it’s hard to find the enthusiasm for a reissue, old news given a cursory makeover. Come On Feel The Lemonheads though went places the band never reached again, a flowering that meant they stayed weird but still got the man to love it.

Three decades later it’s still the same heavenly, difficult, flawed, wonderful beast that Evan Dando intended.

Learn More