Album review: The Lemonheads – ‘Varshons’

No strangers to a cover, here the grunge-pop heroes perfect the art

It’s fair to say that cover versions have played a pretty large part in the topsy-turvy life of The Lemonheads. Despite crafting some of the most gorgeous guitar-pop songs of the ’90s, the band – or should we say Evan Dando and the rotating cast of musical extras who played in his citrus-flavoured backing group – are, in some parts, still remembered as just those guys who got in the charts with Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Mrs Robinson’.

It wasn’t the first time The Lemonheads had taken on someone else’s song; they came to prominence in the UK in the late-’80s with an album that included their take on Suzanne Vega’s ‘Luka’. Now, two decades down the line, Dando’s at it again, with a whole album full of mix-and-match covers which comfortably sit just on the right side of bizarre.

From ‘I Just Can’t Take It Anymore’, originally by Dando’s idol, Gram Parsons, through to Christina Aguilera’s ‘Beautiful’ and GG Allin’s ‘Layin’ Up With Linda’, each chimes perfectly with the countrified lilt that Dando has always carried with him. Almost everything sounds like it always has been, and always will be, an original Lemonheads track.

Countering the obscurist nature of some of the tunes – ‘Dandelion Seeds’ by July and ‘Yesterlove’ by Sam Gopal, anyone? – are the A-list guest vocalists and close personal friends of Dando that appear on the album: Liv Tyler and Kate Moss. Whether they can hold a tune is neither here nor there but, thankfully, they both can, in a rather endearing way; Kate struts across the out-of-place electro of ‘Dirty Robot’ and Liv breathily mooches through Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye’ like Jane Birkin after one pastis too many. A little bit gorgeous.

Leonie Cooper

Click here to get your copy of The Lemonheads’ ‘Varshons’ from the Rough Trade shop