Review : LEMONHEADS - Varshons
AllmusicInspirations rarely come more inspired than Gibby Haynes, the leader of the Butthole Surfers. For years, Gibby slipped Evan Dando mixtapes, and the Lemonheads leader pays tribute with Varshons, a covers album largely consisting of songs from those cassettes and produced by Haynes. At first glance this pairing might seem odd, but Gibby and Evan are both old hardcore punks with a taste for the strange. Evan may have crossed over more than Gibby, who made a career out of odd, but he never quite abandoned weirdness, with even Come on Feel the Lemonheads collapsing in the murk of "The Jello Fund." All the same, Varshons is easily the strangest Lemonheads record in maybe two decades and it's not so coincidentally one of their best, perched between the ragged, formless mess of their earliest records and Dando's enduring love for sweetly weathered country-rock. Gram Parsons, Evan's longtime idol, surfaces on Varshons, as does Townes Van Zandt, but a truer indication of the sun-warped spirit of the album lies in how the Lemonheads revamp Wire's "Fragile" into country-rock or how scum-rocker G.G. Allin's "Layin' Up with Linda" is given a murder ballad revision that resonates. But Varshons isn't all country — there's a thick layer of Texas psychedelic haze, a rather ingenious take on Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful," a duet with Liv Tyler on Leonard Cohen's "Hey That's No Way to Say Goodbye," and, popping out of nowhere, a stiff new wave workout called "Dirty Robot" featuring Kate Moss on lead vocals. This sense of adventure ties Varshons to those earliest Lemonheads records, but the group marries that spirit to Dando's exceptionally intuitive interpretive skills, turning the album into a bit of a rough, unpolished gem....full text
NmeIt’s fair to say that cover versions have played a pretty large part in the topsy-turvy life of The Lemonheads. Despite crafting some of the most gorgeous guitar-pop songs of the ’90s, the band – or should we say Evan Dando and the rotating cast of musical extras who played in his citrus-flavoured backing group – are, in some parts, still remembered as just those guys who got in the charts with Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Mrs Robinson’.
It wasn’t the first time The Lemonheads had taken on someone else’s song; they came to prominence in the UK in the late-’80s with an album that included their take on Suzanne Vega’s ‘Luka’. Now, two decades down the line, Dando’s at it again, with a whole album full of mix-and-match covers which comfortably sit just on the right side of bizarre....full text
GuardianEvan Dando has delivered some brilliant covers - Mike Nesmith's Different Drum and Simon & Garfunkel's Mrs Robinson among them - so it's surprising that he has taken until now to release an album of them. On Varshons, he applies his trademark drawl and guitar twang to songs as diverse as Townes Van Zandt's Waiting Around to Die and Linda Perry's Beautiful (written for Christina Aguilera). His take on Gram Parsons's I Just Can't Take It Anymore is heartfelt; obscure psychedelicists Sam Gopal's Yesterlove and Leonard Cohen's Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye are equally haunting. Inspired by the old mix tapes of Butthole Surfer Gibby Haynes (who produced this album), Dando delivers surprises: a great electro duet with Kate Moss on Arling & Cameron's Dirty Robot, and Layin' Up With Linda, a bleakly funny murder ballad from the punk performance artist GG Allin, usually remembered for smearing himself with excrement. Dando misfires when songs don't suit him - Wire's Fragile loses its tension - but this is worth an hour of anybody's time....full text
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