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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Evan Dando To The Rescue - A Solid Album For 2009

Further to my recent rants about the dearth of quality music thus far in 2009 (with the exception of the new Rancid album, which I recently named the summer's best), I have come to the conclusion that the 2009 music crop may not be as sparse and dry as a Consort, Alberta cereal crop afterall.  What has brought about this change in perspective? Fresh sounds from one of People magazine's "50 Most Beautiful People" from the early 90's, that's who.  The man, the enigma, the riddle - Evan Dando.


After a meteoric rise to fame in the early 90's with some damn fine music via his band, or constantly changing cadre of musicians, the Lemonheads, and the accolades and sex symbol notoriety that followed, Dando, took it upon himself to crash head long into a pile of crack, heroin, LSD and maybe other mind-numbing/altering substances.  While to many, his fall and related stint of mental illness was tragic, to me it served to make Dando more interesting.  I mean let's be clear - the man was already a bit of an odd duck and an eccentric character and the so-called "crash" never seemed to bother him much.  Take for instance this excerpt from an interview in the UK's Guardian:

"I've had a lot of fun and now I'm not worried about much," he smiles. "I had a good time with drugs and I've been to rehab once. I have no regrets. I've learned not to drink and do everything else in moderation. Don't get addicted to anything, that's the key. Now I just want to get better at my craft. I've think I've got a couple of years left in me yet."


Dando's unrepentant, Pete Doherty-esque approach to alcohol/drug use is a refreshing change from the Disney crowd and the "I'm so ashamed of myself" response from seemingly every other rehabilitated celebrity alcoholic or drug addict these days.  Sorry, back to the music.


After a couple of decent solo albums that are worth a listen (Live At The Brattle Theatre/Griffin Sunset EP and Baby I'm Bored), Dando, armed with a new Lemonheads crew, unleashed a beauty of an album with 2006's self-titled rocket that is one of my favorite albums of the past five years.  After such a coherent and outstanding run, I was expecting very little from the Lemonheads' 2009 effort, Varshons, especially after hearing that it was an album of cover tunes.  However, upon further investigation, I learned that these were not your regular cover tunes and that after a listen, the album was somewhat of a gem. 


The album features songs by long-time Dando idol Gram Parsons and Townes Van Zandt (incidentally, Dando's version of "Waiting Around To Die" is better, sadly, than any of the Van Zandt covers on Steve Earle's Townes album that I covered recently), which may not be a stretch for Dando and his "cosmic cowboy/alt-country" leanings, but who expected his covering tracks from wildman/psychotic G.G. Alin, July, Sam Gopal, Leonard Cohen and pop tart Christina Aguillera, whose "Beautiful" is one of the standout tracks on this album? Also, some special guests assist with pushing this album into the stratosphere - supermodel Kate Moss' guest vocals on Arling & Cameron's "Dirty Robot" (strange coincidence that Moss was the longtime girlfriend of the aforementioned Pete Doherty? Knox thinks not), while panned by critics elsewhere, are surprisingly good and rather arousing - and actress Liv Tyler's vocals on Cohen's "Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye" are in the same vein.  My personal favorite is Gram Parsons "I Just Can't Take It Anymore", which is worth a download even if you choose not to follow Knox's advice (which is always dangerous and not recommended) in purchasing the whole album.


I have always been a fan of Dando's and will continue to be, despite being present to witness a bizarre and surrealistic show in Calgary a few years back when Dando muttered, berated the crowd after breaking a guitar string ("a new string isn't like a new car......it sucks......but you all suck......&@**# you") and brought an arm load of actions figures, comics and album covers to the stage.  That night though, the music was flawless, as is this album.  Over and out.

Posted by Knox Harrington on August 11, 2009 in Music | Permalink


Amen to that, brother

Posted by: Guy Procter | 2009-09-03 12:49:40 PM

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