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The Lemonheads – It’s a Shame About Ray (1992)

July 11, 2014

[Album 329/1001]220px-Lemonheads_It's_a_Shame_About_Ray

A few years ago, my friend/fellow-music-enthusiast Megan gave me a book named Music Listography.  A book of make-your-own-top-music lists, talk about knowing your audience!

One of the lists was, “Songs you wish you’d written.”

While it’s tempting to put songs like Happy Birthday (billions of people know your song, either for annual celebrating or as a time guideline for washing hands!) or Bohemian Rhapsody (because how on earth does one come up with a song like that?), I opted for songs that had more in common with the ones I’d actually write.

These three Lemonheads tunes would fit under that category of more realistic/plausible choices:

1. Bit Part –  When it comes to love songs, I’m a sucker for the ones with modest goals/understated compliments, the old under-promise/over-deliver.  Flight of The Conchords had this brilliant scene explaining the pitfalls of over-promising in song:


The Reasons (by The Weakerthans) is an exemplar when it comes to less than grandiose flattery, “You might roll your eyes at this but I’m so glad that you exist.”

Like The Reasons, Bit Part is quite catchy and it features one of the top lines in recent memory:”I just want a bit part in your life.  Rehearsing all the time.”

2. Rudderless – Another acoustic/electric gem, reinforcing my belief in the power of a strong second verse.  Big fan of the female back-up vocals & the “ship without a rudder” outro.

 3. It’s a Shame About Ray – I always find it curious when a solid album shares a name with its weakest song, such as Sonic Youth’s Goo.  No such curiousity here; the title track is an effortlessly excellent tune.

Some may be put off by Evan Dando’s vocals, insisting he sounds like, to borrow a term from Mr. Strickland in Back To The Future, a slacker.  I’d argue he’s more like Pavel Datsyuk, who skates and ‘dangles’ so smoothly on the ice, it only looks like he’s not really trying.

Besides, like other ‘slacker’ alternative artists from the decade (Pavement, Beck), It’s a Shame About Ray, both the song and parent album, hold up remarkably well.

From → 1990s

  1. ianbalentine permalink

    Fantastic choice, have loved this album since it appeared on the shelves! I would add Drug Buddy, one of my faves here, but your 3 are fantastic choices.

    • Thanks Ian – Drug Buddy’s another good one for female backup vocals.

      It’s one of those ones like kd lang’s ‘down to my last cigarette’ – not problems I can personally relate to alas, but that doesn’t diminish my enjoyment of the songs!

  2. jprobichaud permalink

    Loved this album. If I remember correctly, it was one of the first CDs I ever owned. My aunt bought it for me. So many great tunes. Along with the ones you mentioned, I was a big fan of “Alison is starting to happen”. Wasn’t that Juliana Hatfield singing the backup vocals on “Bit part”?

    • On my CD it says she plays bass throughout as well!
      That would probably be my #4 on the album (followed closely by Confetti) but who am I kidding, there isn’t a dud track on there

  3. Evan Dando, a lost icon of the 90’s…he’s still active but how come so low under the radar? With a face and talent like that, it beats me…

    • I had the three mid-90s lemonheads (ray, come on feel, car button cloth) and they all have that effortless feel. I wonder if he’ll be more widely appreciated in hindsight, hopefully!

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