Live/Album Review: The Lemonheads

13/12 at the concorde ii (brighton)

Nineties Nostalgia ... For people of a certain age it can be a truly wonderful thing, revisiting songs branded upon the psyche during more formative and less cynical years. But on the other hand, there is always the possibility of things going horribly wrong and the danger of major disappointment when Reality no longer tallies with rose-tinted memories.

The Lemonheads' 1992 'break-through' album It's A Shame About Ray was for many a landmark record that soundtracked the lives of a collective noun of indie kids, but with Evan Dando and the current incarnation of the band bringing a performance of the LP in full to an audience in late 2011 - does it still stand up and hold on to its glitter?

TL:DR version? - Yep, and with proverbial bells on ...

Last night's gig beside the stormy seas of Brighton had a sold-out crowd in, the Concorde II being an excellent venue (my first visit and I remember the old Concorde where if you whooped and pogo-ed you'd quite possibly end up with a cracked skull), the warm-up slot given over to Meredith Sheldon who carried off the brave task of running through a bunch of wistfully-edged songs with just the backing of her guitar and voice. A good choice of support as it turned out, as parallels between her material and that of The Lemonheads were quite evident and went down well.

Not long after Sheldon's set, Lemonhead's frontman and veteran Evan Dando took to the stage and set the proceedings off in earnest with unaccompanied versions of Being Around and The Outdoor Type, before being joined by the remainder of the band, upping the decibel count by a fair few notches and launching into Ray's opener Rocking Stroll and onwards through the entire album, barely stopping for air.

Not surprisingly the audience was more than happy and sang along to the majority of the tracks with enthusiasm as they got 'exactly what it said on the tin'; the band providing the 40 mins of re-creating some fantastically punchy pop songs with a hint of melancholia which everyone had come to hear. As you may well imagine, said audience definitely averaged above the 30-year-old mark with a minority of 'young'uns' who it must be supposed were indoctrinated with It's a Shame About Ray via cradle-mounted speakers by fanatic parents. The only factors bringing things down a touch were Dando not quite being able to go for the high-range parts that went down on tape 20 years ago (which is fair enough really) and the absence of Julianna Hatfield, whose backing vocals really sealed the deal on the original recordings.

Following the album's runthrough, Dando was once more left to his own devices (excepting a duet with a returning Meredith Sheldon) for a dozen or so of the more less known tracks from The Lemonheads' back catalogue until such time as the 3-piece were back up again and battered through some of 'the hits' in a most pleasing, noisy fashion. A short break for the encore and a great night was ended by Into Your Arms, despite the crowd's repeated calls for Ride With Me - but they didn't seem too put out at all. Understandable - the gig was after all an eminently satisfying way in which to ward off the polar weather of a winter's night. Well worth it.

laughing all the way to the cleaners
(music club deluxe / rhino)

If you happen to be a Lemonheads fan and missed the tour (last night was the final date of the UK leg), you can placate your frustration by getting hold of a comprehensive 'Best Of' compilation named Laughing All The Way To The Cleaners (incidentally also the title of their first EP back in 1986) which was released this week.

This is an offering where you most certainly get your moneys-worth - A double CD including 47 tracks in all, currently retailing (via Amazon) at a unusually reasonable £4.93. As you would probably expect, a substantial chunk of the material from Ray is here, in addition to the more popular songs from 1993's Come On Feel The Lemonheads and 1996's Car Button Cloth. The selection however encompasses the entirety of the band's career and includes tracks from an earlier time when The Lemonheads were more of a punky hardcore band than anything else, as well as later releases.

The compilation does well in that it does indeed cover the vast majority of the band's highs (with Simon and Garfunkel's Mrs. Robinson making a welcome appearance that was somewhat missed at the gig) but also forms a good 'primer' for those who like the idea of hearing some of the more left-of-centre music and slight obscurities from The Lemonheads.

So, for whatever reason you might be pondering this album (*cough* ... Christmas?), chances are that you could do a lot worse than adding Laughing All The Way To The Cleaners to any list of shiny, silvery, circular objects to cheer up December-frosted ears. Humming along may not be mandatory, but may very well occur involuntarily ...