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The Lemonheads

Car Button Cloth  Hear it Now

RS: 4of 5 Stars

2003

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The news that Evan Dando was working on another Lemonheads album was originally greeted with, among other things, skepticism. Anyone familiar with the lanky Bostonian's goofy antics in the three years since Come on Feel the Lemonheads surely feared what could easily have been an embarrassing shambles. As it turns out, fans of the 1992 bubble-grunge classic It's a Shame About Ray need not worry. Dando has reapplied himself to the business of songwriting and recording with admirable acumen. In the tuneless climate of sub-Cobain mediocrity that is alternative rock, it's great to have Dando back.

Car Button Cloth is different from its two predecessors, both in terms of sound and scope. Gone are the acoustic guitars that dominated the last two albums; the music is now beefed up by the churning, dual-guitar electricity of Dando and Bill Gibson. Gone, too, is the uniformity of mood that made It's a Shame About Ray such a seamless listening experience. Perhaps the most startling development on Car Button Cloth is the degree to which Dando is prepared to risk being serious. "Break Me," "Losing Your Mind" and "Tenderfoot" are among the most intense and harrowing songs that he has ever committed to tape.

Other tracks are more playful (the vaguely disconcerting "Hospital") or more soulful ("C'mon Daddy" is loosely based on Liv Tyler's discovery of her true paternity) but without jarring Car Button Cloth's structure and flow. "If I Could Talk I'd Tell You" is charmingly upbeat, and "6ix," written by Dando after he saw the movie Seven, is a macabre slice of Ramone-arama. "Knoxville Girl" is a fine cover of the Appalachian murder ballad popularized by the Louvin Brothers. The album certainly does not suffer from the last-minute loss of the dopey drug ode "Purple Parallelogram," co-written with Noel Gallagher of Oasis (it was dropped from the record at the latter's insistence).

For Dando, reclaiming the credibility he enjoyed three years ago is a tall order. But with Car Button Cloth, he is more than halfway there.

BARNEY HOSKYNS

(Posted: Oct 30, 1996)

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