“I wanna be someone else”: The Lemonheads’ transformative adventures in cover versions

34911fbec24de6ce67331856a8ba847e-1By way of Charles Manson, Suzanne Vega, Gram Parsons, and, yes, Simon and Garfunkel, the Lemonheads once utilized cover songs to reinvent themselves and spark brilliantly infectious guitar-pop originals. And they will again. One day. Perhaps.

On their current reappearance, the Lemonheads are touring a covers album titled Varshons 2, a sequel to their covers album of 2009, Varshons, which was, in fact, their last non-archival release. The LP sees chief Lemonhead Evan Dando once again stake his claim as a sensitive interpreter of largely underappreciated indie songs, applying his soothing baritone to such country-inflected gems as the Jayhawks’ “Settled Down Like Rain”, and Lucinda Williams’ “Abandoned”. He has, lest we forget, a tradition of recording cover songs with his band, going back to “Into Your Arms” in 1993, “Brass Buttons” in 1990, and “Luka” in 1987. However, such releases served not merely as stopgaps, or B-sides or filler, but rather as lead tracks that stimulated and gave potency to often sublime original material, on the band’s shape-shifting upward trajectory through hardcore punk, grunge pop, and country rock.

Now, sadly, we no longer hear the sublime original material, at least not on record. We no longer hear self- or co-penned Lemonhead songs to rank alongside “My Drug Buddy”, “Rudderless”, “It’s A Shame About Ray”, “It’s About Time”, “Big Gay Heart”, or “If I Could Talk I’d Tell You”, seemingly effortless strummers which have grown steadily in stature since they were released and which themselves deserve to be covered, so melodic, poignant and evocative are they of summers, friendships, and youth. In fact, we haven’t heard any kind of original song from the band since 2006. What happened?

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