“What was once old becomes new again.” This common cliché can easily be used to describe the retroactive popularity of just about anything. For example, who ever thought they would have to be buying leg warmers for their teenage daughters in 2006? In a world where life can move at a pace fast enough to make some queasy, the resurgence of trends from days long gone can be seen as a sigh of relief to some.
As the subgenre of ‘alternative music’ approaches nearly 30 years of existence, the aforementioned cliché comes to mind when one sees bands such as Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Mission Of Burma and Gang Of Four currently touring and releasing well-embraced albums of new material. Sonic Youth, for example, released their 22nd full length album, Rather Ripped (DGC), over the summer. Dinosaur Jr’s original line up, which disbanded in 1983, reunited last summer and has been touring consistently ever since. They even have a new album’s worth of material scheduled to come out at some point in 2007. Boston’s Mission of Burma, who initially broke up in 1983, has since reunited and this summer issued their newest creative effort, the critically praised The Obliterati (Matador). England’s Gang of Four released Return The Gift (V2) last year, more than 20 years after they too had disbanded.
The most recent addition to this cultural and musical resurgence is that of former Bostonian Evan Dando, front man of the alt-country/indie rock band, the Lemonheads. Dando, who was listed as one of People Magazine’s ‘50 Most Beautiful People’ in 1993, announced last year that he was resurrecting his former band. The technicality of this move seemed odd to some since the Lemonheads technically never had a stable lineup other than Dando who was not only the singer-guitar player, but also primary song writer. The band’s website boasts that over a five-year span, the Lemonheads had at least ten different bass players and over a dozen different drummers. However, Dando had stopped playing under the mantle of the Lemonheads after 1997’s Reading Festival.
Formed in 1986, the Lemonheads were a key component to the surging success of indie rock in the early 1990s as they graduated from the independent label Taang! Records with their fourth LP, Lovely (1990, Atlantic). The Lemonheads reached both commercial and critical success with 1991’s It’s A Shame About Ray (Atlantic) with songs like ‘Confetti,’ ‘My Drug Buddy’ and a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Mrs. Robinson.’ That success continued with 1993’s Come On Feel The Lemonheads, which contained the charting single ‘Into Your Arms’.
It was with this release, however, that the rush of success finally caught up to Dando. The stress of being seen as a pop figure (as well as something of a teen heartthrob) took its toll on Dando, who also made no attempt to hide his rather consistent drug use (see the lyrics to ‘My Drug Buddy’). After the release of 1996’s Car Button Cloth (Atlantic), Dando went into seclusion and became one of indie rock’s more storied disappearing acts. While Dando now refers to his disappearance as simply needing to “duck out for a while,” many feared for his life. In one interview from the Car Button Cloth era, Dando admitted to having an addiction to crack cocaine.
Dando resurfaced, alive and well, during the late 1990s, playing scattered solo gigs, which included both new material and Lemonheads tracks. But there was no official word on Dando doing another Lemonheads album. Late in 2005, however, word began to spread of a new Lemonheads album, although there was question as to who was working with Dando on the record. Many were surprised to find out that the Lemonheads’ new rhythm section was comprised of Bill Stevenson and Karl Alverez (both of seminal pop punk band, the Descendents). Dando has stated in recent interviews that the new Lemonheads album (simply titled The Lemonheads, to be released 9/26/06 on Vagrant Records) is very reminiscent of both former Lemonheads and Descendents albums. Accompanying the release of the album is a tour of the United States (dates posted below).
Dando’s fans are fortunate, as they will have an opportunity to listen to new material and see him perform those new songs, as well as classic ones, live. One can only wonder what other bands might resurface in the not-too-distant future. While some might sigh with a hint of displeasure at the thought of seeing some now middle-aged individuals take a second stab at their days of glory, there are many others who are simply happy to see a growing appreciation for something that once meant so much to them. They get to watch as what once had been old becomes new again.