The Lemonheads may be treading water but they certainly aren't drowning.
Al Spicer 2009-06-08
There's something in the American psyche that makes every hard rocker turn to country music at a certain age. And opening this album of cover versions with Gram Parsons' I Just Can't Take It Anymore is as fine a place to start as any. But leave it to Evan Dando to make even Wire (Fragile) and G.G. Allin (Layin' Up With Linda) sound good with an acoustic twang behind them. Such seemingly perverse choices make sense in his capable hands.
There's more to Varshons than a lazy accumulation of slow, sincere tunes of love and remorse though – The Lemonheads stray across to Dutch electronica on Dirty Robot and pay their dues to 60s psychedelia with Dandelion Seeds, making accomplished, respectful stabs at both.
Gibby Haynes (producer, ex-Butthole Surfers and long-standing pal of the band) has been swapping mixes with Dando for years. Their sheer eclecticism inspired the guys to collaborate on this outstanding set, with guest guitar from John Perry (Only Ones), and surprise vocals from Liv Tyler and Kate Moss. Like all the best mix tapes, it inspires the listener to go check out the artists represented; anything that leads to Townes Van Zandt (Waiting Around To Die) or Leonard Cohen (Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye) has to be good for the soul.
An album of cover versions can sometimes be evidence of a direction mislaid. Here, we have a collection of tributes that amounts to a mustering of troops in preparation for attack: The Lemonheads may be treading water but they certainly aren't drowning.