After ten years out of the game, how else would you expect Evan Dando to outdo 2008’s Varshons but with err… Varshons II? How, after 10 years, can Dando successfully produce a second go at a defining covers album and still, literally this time, come up smelling of bananas? Not how else, but who else?
Varshons II is quite simply brilliant, following up and reprising the quality of its predecessor. Dando leads his Lemonheads through another exhilarating and charming collection of eclectic cover versions that run out at over 40 minutes this time. You’d be almost disappointed if there weren’t seriously sharp covers of the likes of Yo La Tengo’s album opener ‘Can’t Forget’, or even Paul Westerberg’s hidden gem ‘Things’, but what is great about this release is the unexpected variety of song and artist selection.
Sweet-toothed affection through a long-term dalliance for country music and legend John Prine on personal favourite ‘Speed of the Sound of Loneliness’. Soft-rock homage of The Eagles in the almost tongue-in-cheek choice of closing track ‘Take It Easy’. The impossibly successful reggae rendition of The GiveGoods ‘Unfamiliar’. Even out-doing the deadpan gothic croons of a Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds burner on ‘Straight to You’. This is genre-crossing juke box bashing at its very best.
Evan Dando quite simply doesn’t care. His taste, execution and choice are thrilling. He’s a chilled-out rock slacker supreme and this is why we’ve always loved him.
What strikes us the most throughout Varshons II is the genuine and endearing affection he has for the original artists he uses; Dando shows an artistic respect for the original arrangements of the album’s material. But what Dando has always done, is somehow make these songs his own. It’s a casual, cool record made for lazy weekends.
This is not of course the first time The Lemonheads have trodden sacred cover version ground, and it’s the de-stressed and bittersweet vocals that add an extra layer of emotion to what are already excellent songs.
Ultimately, it all works a real charm; the choice of songs, the choice of musicians and a vocal that never misses. Varshons II is by no means the album of original material we’ve been waiting so long for, but hey, if this is the best we can all expect in the meantime, I’m fine with that. Just fine.