Lemonheads fans look away now. Varshons, the band’s album of covers is not just bad, it’s terrible. What makes Varshons so particularly weak is that it is by a band whose reputation has been built on an ability to create some of the best cover versions around.
Forget The Lemonheads’ previous covers of Susanne Vega’s ‘Luka’, Mike Nesmith’s ‘Different Drum’ and Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Mrs Robinson’. These were undisputed classics. Varshons in sharp contrast features some well-known and less famous covers that are lacklustre at best and downright embarrassing in places.
Among the lacklustre tracks are opener ‘I Just Can’t Take It Anymore’, originally by Gram Parsons. Lemonheads are no stranger to Parson’s covers, with their version of Brass Buttons being one of the highlights of their 1990 album Lovey. Lemonheads frontman Evan Dando should be able to do a credible cover of Parsons in his sleep, sadly ‘I Just Can’t Take It Anymore’ sounds like he did just that.
Other lame efforts are versions of GG Allin’s ‘Layin’Up With Linda’, Townes Van Zandt’s ‘Waiting Around to Die’ and Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hey, That’s No Way To Say Goodbye’. The coma inducing production throughout by Butthole Surfer’s Gibby Haynes even manages to suck what little life there is in Linda Perry’s ‘Beautiful’. As painful as it is to write, the original by Christina Aguilera is far better.
The downright embarrassing comes in the form of their take of Arling and Cameron’s ‘Dirty Robot’, which is sung implausibly by Kate Moss. Huddled around the campfire at Glastonbury in their Hunter wellies the pairing of the supermodel and The Lemonheads may have seemed a good idea to Dando and Moss. However, she is no hidden musical gem, she can’t sing and her weak south London drawl has no business being recorded for posterity.
The only saving grace on this album is a cover of Sam Gopal’s ‘Yesterlove’, which at least shows a hint of emotion in Dando’s voice.
Even the most die-hard Lemonheads fans would be hard pressed to enjoy this album. Our advice is avoid and put on one of the band’s classics such as It’s A Shame About Ray instead. Or if it is covers you want get a copy of Adem’s Takes, which oozes with the energy and emotion that Varshons so sadly lacks.
by Joe Lepper, June 2009