Fire Records have reissued the first three albums by the Lemonheads, Hate Your Friends (1987), Creator (1988) and Lick (1989), featuring copious bonus tracks and many never-before released rarities and live recordings. Together, these seminal albums showcase the band’s early punk rock roots and trace the Lemonheads transformation towards becoming one of the most successful and influential bands in indie rock.
Before the 90s. Before the internet. Before Nevermind. Back when something called independent music first began reaching a wider audience, through college radio, word-of-mouth, and that small underground record store you seem to find in every town there was a band from Boston called Lemonheads.
High school friends Ben Deily and Evan Dando, Lemonheads primary songwriters, co-guitarists and co-vocalists, first recorded together on 4-track cassette in the spring of 1985; by the end of the decade they, together with bass player Jesse Peretz, sometimes-guitarist Corey Brennan, and successive drummers Doug Trachten and John P. Strohmhad created a body of recordings which would see them on MTVs fledgling 120 Minutes, beating out the Grateful Dead on college radio charts, and entering the consciousness of a generation of music fans.
Lick is the third full-length album and the last to feature founding member Ben Deily. It was also the group’s last independent label-released album before signing to major label Atlantic.
An odd mixture of brand-new, and considerably older, sounds, 1989s Lick brings together the output of several distinct recording sources: six brand new songs recorded with Minneapolis-based band friend and producer Terry Katzman, and a collection of older, B-side and never-released material originally overseen by producer and engineer Tom Hamilton.
The difficulties of writing and creating a new full-length album every year (Hate Your Friends and Creator were released in 1987 and 1988, respectively) are clearly in evidence on Lick. While the newest material (Mallo Cup, A Circle of One, 7 Powers, Anyway) hints at promising new song writing directions for both Deily and Dando, there’s an almost valedictory sense of the past in the inclusion of versions of Glad I Don’t Know and I Am a Rabbit (from the bands’ first-ever, self-released EP), and the now-classic track ‘Ever’, a previously-unreleased tune from the original 1986 ‘Hate Your Friends’ sessions. At moments, Lick almost sounds like an elegy for itself or an elegy for a band that has reached the end of the beginning.
Also audible in the heterogeneous songs are the tensions of line-up changes and inchoate, growing frustrations. After various band break-ups or threatened break ups (such as Dando’s brief departure to play bass for Boston band the Blake Babies), the Lemonheads convened to record new material for Lick now featured Dando on drums, Peretz on bass, Deily on guitar (and piano, according to the album credits) along with the addition of long-time band friend and former member of TAANG! Label mates Bullet LaVolta, Corey Loog Brennan on lead guitar. And yet the frenzied, quasi-ironic hammer-ons of Corey’s axe provide some of Licks most entertaining moments like the unaccountably-translated-into-Italian paen to 70s detective Ironside, Cazzo Di Ferro. (The songs music was originally composed by Brennan for his Italian punk band, Superfetazione.)
After the albums completion, Deily opted out of the subs