The Lemonheads: Hate Your Friends, Creator & Lick (Fire Records)
Due Out 7th Oct
Fire Records are reissuing the first three albums by Lemonheads. Together, these seminal albums showcase the band’s early punk rock roots and trace the Lemonheads’ transformation towards becoming one of the most successful and influential bands in indie rock.
This month Fire Records re-issue three early albums by The Lemonheads. Originally released through TAANG! Records in the 80’s but resurrected in 2013 for a very good reason. These albums are surprisingly are as good as any of their later career. They show a fledgling band finding their feet, flexing their songwriting abilities and venting some ‘punk rock’ teenage fury. Still at high school in Boston when they began recording the first of three Lemonheads albums between the years of 1987-1989, Evan Dando and Ben Deily the primary songwriters that began define a band that would go on to be major label, million-sellers in the 90’s.
Basically, these are re-issues of a re-issue, be it on a different label. These albums were given a re-issues back in 1992; All with the same extra tracks, alternative mixes, radio interviews and sessions. Of course, if you don’t already own these albums which not many people do to be honest, at least comparatively to their Atlantic Records releases such as, ‘It’s A Shame About Ray’ and ‘Come On, Feel The Lemonheads’, they are worth buying. They contain more songs from the live radio sessions than the ’92 release, with a welcome additions such as a cover of Charles Manson’s version of the song he wrote for The Beach Boys, ‘Cease To Exist’. Their penchant for quirky cover versions goes back as far as these formative albums, with them covering ‘Amazing Grace’, ‘Plaster Caster’ by Kiss, Their break through single, Susan Vega’s ‘Luka’ & Dando’s version of ‘Home Is Where Your Happy’ by Manson again. In fact their (or Dando’s) obsession with Manson extends itself throughout the their early career. Firstly with another cover of, ‘Clang Bang Clang’ on ‘Lick’, and secondly the many songs that allude to or blatantly sample Manson directly such as, ‘Die Right Now’, ‘Come Back DA’ and my favorite tune on ‘Hate Your Friends’, ‘Sneakyville’. Even continuing on their major label debut, ‘Lovey’ with the beautiful, ‘Ride With Me’, the smokey ‘Lil Seed’ and chaotic ‘Ballerat’.
What seems to be evolving over the period of these three albums is the duelling of the songwriters, which in a lot of cases makes for better songs but inversely, the power struggle can also dissolve relationships between its vying band members. Their debut, ‘Hate Your Friends’ is the sound of East coast, teenage punk rock co-existing with their pop influences if only for a few fleeting minutes. Most of the album is made up of fast, overdriven shouty and nihilistic exuberance. Their irreverent cover of Proud Scum’s, ‘Rabbit’ never fails to raise a smile as they scream about wanting to, “share their carrot with you”. The best tracks are the title track, ‘Hate Your Friends’ and the Buzzcocks sounding, ‘Second Chance’ with the radio session versions of the giving a glimpse of their live sound.
Their follow up album, ‘Creator’ finds them leaning closer to REM than Negative FX. The laconic, ‘Out’ sounds as if Dinosaur Jr had started influencing the East coast sound. Overall it isn’t as vibrant as their debut writing more of a sub-Replacements Indie Pop Punk. The songs seem unfinished and demo-like. Stand out track is the catchy, upbeat Deily penned, ‘Take Her Down’ and the extra radio session versions sound better than some on the album but add little to the underwhelming nature of the album in large.
‘Lick’ on the other hand is where The Lemonheads find their stride and really deliver some great melodic hooks and evocative lyrics. The opening track, ‘Mallo Cup’ is playful and well performed. They squeeze as much melody from it’s chords making it one of their best songs thus far. Their ‘Punkiness’ has definitely been replaced by ‘Rockiness’ on this album making it far more palatable. On ‘7 Powers’ and ‘Ever’, Deily again proves to be on point lyrically creating some very poignant songs but it’s Dando that pulls out the Indie Pop trump card with, ‘Circle Of One’. A jangly slice of what he will become famous for. Again, the radio session versions offer little but the addition of the B sides to the ‘Luka’ EP, ‘Fucked Up’ and ‘I Like To’ are a pleasure because of their superior production.
Recommended if you don’t already own the ’92 re-issue.
All words by Philip Allen. More work by Philip can be found in his Louder Than War archive.