CLASSIC ALBUM REVIEW: The Lemonheads: It’s a Shame About Ray (1992)

21 Jul

The big problem with cds is that they’re too darn long. Seriously, if you look at the albums on most all-time best of lists, they run about 45 minutes. When the CD appeared, everybody seemed intent on pushing things to the format’s maximum 74 or 80 minutes. To put it in context, that’s longer than Exile on Main Street, London Calling or Zen Arcade. The point is, when you buy a cd you can bet on at least a half hour of filler. That’s annoying.

No such problems with It’s a Shame About Ray. Its only 27 minutes long, 32 if you get a later version with their silly but catchy cover of “Mrs. Robinson” attached. What it lacks in running time, it more than makes up for in quality: A dozen slightly countrified punk pop gems, occupying a paradise somewhere between Green Day and Gram Parsons. That is to say, every song is immediately catchy yet instantly familiar from the first listen. This is the kind of record where, should it stay in your rotation for awhile (and it most certainly will), it will yield a new favorite track every few days. 20-plus years after its release, it still delivers the goods every time.

High points include the title track, “Hannah and Gabi”, “My Drug Buddy”  and “Confetti”, but there’s really not a weak number in the bunch. Most tracks are mid to slightly uptempo and dominated by acoustic guitar and Evan Dando’s wonderfully warm singing. If the songs have any weakness its that they can be lyrically slight,  but they’re so bouncy, charming and relentlessly catchy that hardly distracts at all. This one deserves a spot in any collection and stands as one of the most memorable albums of the 90’s alterna-rock explosion.

(PS–Check out the video for the Title Track, starring an up-and-coming actor you may recognize)

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