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Music Review: The Lemonheads – Hotel Sessions

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The late ’80s and early ’90s was the most fruitful period in Evan Dando and the Lemonheads’ long career, with the band churning out studio albums or EPs every year from 1986 to 1993. They were young, punk-inspired and workaholics in that period. But as the decade turned to the ’90s, Dando took more control of the songwriting direction and singing, and opted for more jangly and yearning pop melodies that complemented his songs’ post-punk vibes. Songs like 1990’s “Stove” (from Lovey) contained an aggressive edge, but it only hinted at the big-sounding guitar pop rock classics that came in the form of 1992’s It’s A Shame About Ray and 1993’s Come On Feel The Lemonheads.

The Hotel Sessions album that will be released on February 7, 2012 (on Hall of Records/Breath of Saltwater) captures Dando’s rough, bootleg-quality takes on songs that would end up on the Come On… CD. According to the man himself, the 14 tracks on the release were performed late on a Sunday night at a hotel located on an Australian beach sometime between December of 1992 and February 1993 (many months before the fall ’93 release of the LP).

Besides mainly quick, delicate takes on future classics, Dando provides a little insight into many of the songs. “Great Big No” is a loud pop number about death and disappointment; “It’s About Time” is about longtime friend and former bandmate Juliana Hatfield, and “Superhero” is a Smudge cover that didn’t make the record.

The stripped and slowed down take on “Down About It,” which Dando actually named “Her Guitar” during the recording, is one of the more pleasant surprises on here. And though Dando claims in a press release that his (shortened) version of the hit Love Positions cover “Into Your Arms” is better here than the album version, I wouldn’t go that far. First of all, it’s a little slower and sleepier vocally—keep in mind this was done in the wee hours of a Sunday night/Monday morning—but the acoustic guitar playing/strumming is cool and comforting in this setting.

This isn’t the type of album you’ll revisit over and over again, but it’s fun to listen to early versions of these songs and compare them to the final (full band) versions that would appear on Come On…, one of the best Lemonheads albums ever. In all, Hotel Sessions is meant to be a collector’s item for the longtime Lemonheads fan. And even if it isn’t the most professionally performed and recorded set of performances by Dando, it is a keeper.

For more info on The Lemonheads and their current U.S. tour in which they are performing the band’s other must-have album It’s A Shame About Ray in its entirety, visit thelemonheads.net.

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About Charlie Doherty

Copy editor/content writer for Penn Multimedia; print/web journalist/freelancer, formerly for Boston Examiner, EMSI, Demand Media, Brookline TAB, Suite 101 and Helium.com; co-head sports editor & asst. music editor at Blogcritics Magazine; Media Nation independent newspaper staff writer, printed/published by the Boston Globe at 2004 DNC (Boston, MA); Featured in Guitar World May 2014. See me on twitter.com/chucko33, myspace.com/charlied, & Facebook.