Evan Dando- Baby I’m Bored: Reissue (Fire)

I largely tuned out of Evan Dando’s musical world as The Lemonheads career wound down and brought diminishing returns as the years passed by. As a result,  I completely missed this album first time round when it was first released in 2003.  I am excited to report that fourteen years on it sounds fresh, focused and fluid. Especially in a musical landscape cluttered with loops and beat drops. It sounds to my ears a bit of a lost classic.

Always a restless musical soul, Evan Dando recorded and played with an ever-changing line-up of muscians, seemingly happy to produce an album of covers as much as a bunch of originals. Here Jon Brion steered the ship. He came with an impressive CV having already worked with Marianne Faithfull, Elliot Smith, The Wallflowers as well as helming production duties for Robyn Hitchcock, Rufus Wainwright, Fiona Apple and Brad Mehldau and even finding time to knock out film scores for Magnolia and Punch Drunk Love.  He clearly knew the inside of a studio and which tools to bring to a song.

Other contributors included Aussies Tom Morgan (My Idea) and Ben Lee (Hard Drive). However having a good team on your side is one thing but you still have to deliver and lucky for us Mr Dando does just that. Sounding relaxed and clear headed sometimes it’s a sunny freeway, and sometimes it’s a bummer summer but theres always a feeling it will be ok in the end.

To me Baby I’m Bored feels like the come down after a really good party. A hungover next day where there are flashes of the good times from the night before but in this case, the overall mood is an exposed melancholy that often underpinned the best of The Lemonheads work. A mellow vocal delivery that sounds committed and focused while still managing to embody the teenage ennui of the title. Top production finds and delivers the hooks to the max. It is the sound of one of People Magazine’s 50 most beautiful men of the 90’s living away from the light and reflecting on where he has been and where he’s at.

My Idea could be a lost Richard Thompson song the way it oozes its way into your head until the guitar solo drips out of your ears.  A3 Sant Fe Waking Up is like a Beatles mash-up of hand claps and a piano melody that John Lennon would be proud of.  Hard Drive is the sound of sobriety containing as it does list of all the affirmations of a changed man with the lovely “have you ever felt yourself in motion” refrain bedded in an acoustic guitar, brushes and sustained Lanois-like guitar. It’s not a bad place to be. Shots is all double tracking Elliot Smith-like vocal and spooky single note piano detailing an inner dialogue with “Whatever part of you that has been calling the shots. ” It sounds like a hard look in the mirror.

The extra tracks in the 2017 Fire Records Reissue are largely b-sides (Tongue Tied / Au Bord De La Seine), alternative versions (Shots Is Fired / Rancho Sante Fe) and even a song from a Rainer Ptacek tribute album.

It must have been a good time to be writing songs as the standard of these outtakes is pretty high. There a couple of songs that feel half-formed  (Whoops /Walk In The Woods with Lionel Ritchie) and the harder guitar sound of  Sucker Punch and The Same Thing You Thought Hard About would have changed the mood of the original LP with their more agressive  presentation. Au Bord De La Seine sounds like an observational rewrite of Merle Haggards The Bottle Let Me Down opening with the line “Fat, broke, bald, armed and angry…”.  For a man who dropped out of college in the 80’s with four F’s and a D,  Mr Dando has done alright.  Maybe I should have paid less attention to school.

Brent Giblin

Note: Evan Dando brings his Baby I’m Bored Tour to Auckland’s Tuning Fork on Sunday, June