You Can't Go Back, Evan. Even With a Car.

Drug use sometimes helps artists. Certainly a sober Replacements would've

been no fun and what good could've come from an unstrung Keith Richards?

Occasionally though, as we've seen with Perry Farrell and now with Evan

Dando, musicians just go crazy and their music turns to crap. On his

seventh full length album, Car Button Cloth, Mr. Dando and his

constantly shifting Lemonheads lineup, attempt to recapture the glory of

1992's pop masterpiece, It's a Shame About Ray. Having swayed way

off any vaguely definable course on 19"'s Come On Feel The

Lemonheads (memorable only for Rick James' superbad guest appearance),

Dando seems well aware that a return to the worn rock path might be the

right call. But sometimes Evan, you just can't go back.

The album starts of promisingly enough with Eugenius genius Eugene Kelly

adding his trademark Scottish guitar swirl to the harmless "It's All

True." Dando plays predictably ambiguous with his sexuality, "It's all

true/I've got me/And she's got you." But let's not fault his love life

however confused, it's a benign song certain to bob the head. The first

of many insanity chronicles to come (In his own words following last years

highly publicized mental breakdown in Australia, "I sort of forgot I was a

drug addict. I took a hit of acid and started staring at this dollar

bill, at the words, 'In God We Trust' and I started thinking, 'God and

money should never cross paths. And I stared for like three hours), "If I

Could Talk I'd Tell You," is standard jangly chord stuff over which some

of the most nonsensical lyrics ever penned spill out. If the chirping bird

solo doesn't tell, maybe the words will--Evan Dando is nuts, "If I could

talk I'd tell you/My most imaginary friend...Kymher Rouge/J'ne cest

qoi//You're placing Mein Keimpf/now I'm giving the dog a bone."

"Break Me" sounds like a mediocre "It's a Shame" b-side and so does

"Hospital" except that it's laden with cacophonous piano effects and

appears to be about some mysterious renegade disease rather than a couple

of cool kids making out or taking shelter in a phone booth. Veering

briefly back on track, "The Outdoor Type" is the simple confessional stuff

we all love, good enough to remind us, however teasingly, of the Dando of

old. This a wonderful little ditty. You will put this song on a mix tape

and you will mail it to the rugged Vermont girlfriend you haven't seen

since last summer's disastrous whitewater rafting trip. Don't break your

cheekbones smiling though 'cause just when it seems the good stuff might

start rolling you'll hear "Losing Your Mind" (a label described "turbulent

epic") a six minute, weepy, endurance test about, well, going bonkers,

that just might be one of the worst songs ever written by anyone ever.

In all fairness to everyone's favorite Bostonian pretty boy, the second

half of this record is much better than its confused counterpart.

"Something's Missing" rocks, giving Murph, ex-Dinosaur Jr. drummer

(the track in fact sounds like an outtake from Dinosaur's 1987 classic

You're Living All Over Me), the forum he deserves to display the

expertise with which he occupies the pocket. Their take on "Knoxville

Girl," a cute little country standard about some hick who beats his

girlfriend to death with a stick and drags her around by the hair (Evan

himself recommends the Louvin' Brothers version from their landmark 50's

album, Satan IS Real!), cowpunks undeniably no matter how upset the

tune might make your humorless self.

But wait! It just gets stranger. The faster beats continue on under

"6IX", an apparent ode to the serial insta-classic flick, Seven

that opens disturbingly enough with, "Here comes Gwyneth's head in a box"

as though a starved Dando might be licking his lips in anticipation of a

forthcoming meal. This is strange shit. Gwyneth Paltrow should move

immediately. "C'mon Daddy" is a pointless lounge piano number that even

Spacehog Royston Langdon's sensitive ivory tickling cannot rescue (His

playing isn't that amazing but he just seems so inherently cool). "Secular

Rockulidge" is the perfect anti-closer, a pointless five minute metal

instrumental (insanity) that one can only pray is a cock-rock parody. If

he's not kidding, may God in Heaven help him.

Car Button Cloth suffers as equally from poor production as it does

from senselessness. The sparse sounds, here produced by Bryce Goggin

(Pavement, The Breeders), that once accentuated The Lemonheads simplicity

seem pointless on so difficult an album. Murph, a world class skinsman,

should be ten times as prominent as he is and The Legendary Bill Gibson

(whoever that is) is hardly distinguishable from Dando himself. (I

suspect all this stuff will rock way harder live)

Car Button Cloth is not a genuine piece of crap. There are gems

buried in the nonsense and if you let the words fall on you like notes and

not demented poetry you'll hardly be able to distinguish it from Dando's

prior outings. Problem is, you wont be able to ignore the lyrics and

you'll end up feeling like I did, like there's some fairly cool rhythms

here, strummed by a very confused manchild. This pop has eaten itself.