When you talk to the average bear about their favorite music of the decade, you may find yourself in murky water. The Vanilla Ices, Sugar Rays and Lits of the decade have potentially rendered many music fans’ 90s taste buds useless. Just as every decade’s pop charts have ruled the airwaves, there is of course a plethora of musicians who have had their good name sullied by similar “artists.”
By no means am I an expert in this field, but it is a passion of mine to discover the overlooked. The goal of this ongoing series is to expose the vein and turn you on to the real, honest artists from the 90s who actually deserve your attention.
It’s A Shame About The 90s
The Lemonheads, fronted by the elusive and brutally honest Evan Dando, are my first choice. My bromance with Mr. Dando aside, this man warrants your consideration. The ability he has to take pop/rock stylings and inject them with heroin-infused truths may not necessarily strike a chord on first listen. It takes a few spins to sink your teeth into the meanings and find the sincerity. Just like any good drug, after you’ve tasted it, all you want is more.
Starting as a “punk” band in the mid-80s, Evan has remained the Lemonheads’ only constant member through the years. In 1992, their fan base grew enough for the almighty major label to bring them under their wing. That same year, they released “It’s a Shame About Ray,” their only critically acclaimed release. The record’s title track was the first and most successful single, reaching #5 on the Modern Rock charts in America. When the record was re-issued, a cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Mrs. Robinson” was tacked on as the album’s closer. The cover was a pretty big hit, even finding its way onto the Wayne’s World 2 soundtrack.
Over the next 15 years, Evan and his Lemonheads went on to release a lot of wonderful music that was greatly overlooked. He collaborated with members of Dinosaur Jr., Descendents, even the crazy Brits from Oasis. I could tell you that every single record they made through the years is fantastic, but I’m biased. As a songwriter, Evan mixes metaphor and reality in a way that is truly poetic while at the same time can be taken in jest.
I was fortunate enough to share the stage with Mr. Dando on the 20-year celebration tour of “It’s a Shame About Ray.” Through all of his quirkiness, he could not have been more friendly and cordial. I can’t imagine playing the same songs over and over for 20 years and still being able to wear a genuine smile. We talked about MC5, how our Methodist Church van is a good cover for smoking pot, and how strange it is that our little town of Gainesville gets no love from bigger touring artists.
I can’t say enough nice things about this man and the music he has crafted. I hope he never stops.
MUST HAVE ALBUMS:
“It’s a Shame About Ray” (Atlantic Records 1992)