Thursday, April 2, 2009
Come On Feel . . .
The etymology for the word nostalgia combines the Greek roots nostos, “returning home," with algos, “pain.” From the early 15th century until as recently as the 19th, nostalgia was treated as a medical condition, a form of melancholy, with entire medical texts devoted to it. And in the modern novel The Immoralist, Andre Gide writes that “happiness is never so easily destroyed than by thoughts of past happiness” lending credence to the idea that nostalgia is something to be avoided.
Yet when on the F train last night, reveling in the slight distortion of reality created by a touch of after-work tequila, I dialed up the Lemonheads 1993 album “Come on Feel The Lemonheads” on my iPod and was happily under the spell of dear old nostalgia . . .
The Lemonheads burst onto the scene in 1992 with their major label debut “It’s a Shame About Ray,”and as well received as this album was, critics were equally as blasé about “Come On Feel . . .” (Rolling Stone was in the vast minority giving the album four stars). But from the moment that the dulcet tones of Evan Dando’s voice in “The Great Big No” hits my ears to the last note of the hidden track “The Jello Fund” there is no doubt that this is my favorite album from the grungerific 90’s.
My love for this album is borne from the fact that Dando’s voice was not only the honey that soothed my soul during the breakups and disappointments of my late teens and early twenties but also from the memories of freedom and youth that it recalls. Coupled with the knowledge that “Come On Feel . . .” was created from beneath Dando’s burgeoning drug habit that would soon spiral out of control (which he confesses to in “Rick James Style” when he frantically sings “Don’t want to get high/but I don’t wanna not get high . . . Just give me a killer line/ and I’ll figure it out myself”) makes it an even more impressive feat. Yet even with this touch of darkness lurking beneath the surface, Dando’s effervescent pop sensibilities that offer tales of the mundane some pep (“Paid to Smile”), honesty when addressing the legions of gay men under the spell of his pin-up looks (“Big Gay Heart”) and desire for sanctuary (“Into Your Arms”) make this album too much fun to dig very deeply.
Are The Lemonheads as ambitious or complex as, say, Radiohead or Nirvana? Of course not. But ambition is overrated and complexity works best in puzzles, not pop albums.