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.