In the 90s, Evan Dando was the quintessential gentle guy of rock and roll. While Nirvana and their Seattle contemporaries were screaming and guitar smashing their way up the charts, Dando and his band The Lemonheads were trading in melodic guitar pop that sounded like they read poetry when they weren’t playing music. That might sound a bit dismissive, but I say that as a guy who always like Lemonheads songs whenever they came on the wireless. And that’s just how I remember them and their impact in my teenage years when they were at the mainstream peak. A mainstream peak represented by Come on Feel the Lemonheads.
Opening with The Great Big No, the song doesn’t really make any attempts to disprove my above broad classification of the band. It’s overly sincere guitar pop that oozes a brooding sensitivity that I have to assume Ethan Hawke based his character on for Reality Bites. Up next, Into Your Arms does basically the same thing. The difference is, Into Your Arms does it with a much catchier melody and lyrical hook that’s impossible not to sing along to.
When things get more energetic, they also get more optimistic sounding on Down About It. Louder, faster, more distorted, everything seems a lot more fun here than on the preceding trifecta. But when it gets back to that original sound on Paid to Smile, I have to worry about Come on Feel the Lemonheads 15 tracks and 54 minutes. I like these songs and this sound, but things are little too similar in this opening third to justify so many songs and such an extended running time.
But it turns out I may have spoken too soon. Because Big Gay Heart adds just enough of a country flare to keep things fresh and compelling for a few more minutes (see also Being Around for some great country twang). Then it’s time for me to be careful what I wish for. Because Style is by far the most different song on Come on Feel the Lemonheads and it might be the worst. Its stoner, sludge rock sound just sticks out for all the wrong reasons amongst the rest of this record.
But a just as jarring change in direction works a whole lot better with the Ramones-like Rest Assured. While the instrumentation is ramped up, Dando gets to stick within his slacker vocals wheelhouse, which is where he belongs. The genre hopping continues with the sombre Rick James Style going for a darker tone of contemplation and introspection.
While the second half definitely offers a little more variety than the first, that first half is so samey, that Come on Feel the Lemonheads never really recovered fully for me. Here’s the thing, I like pretty much every single song here. If you take away Style, I probably like them all, in isolation. But once put together, back to back to back to back for almost an hour, it just gets a little monotonous. Drop Style, and pretty much any other random three or four songs, and I think this OK album would become a great one.