Back in 1992, Evan Dando appeared to have the world at his feet. Poster boy for the slacker generation, with a finely tuned ear for a melodic hook and creator of one of THE great albums of the ’90s (It’s A Shame About Ray), he seemed to have it all.
And then he lost it. Following the death of Kurt Cobain, it seemed as if Dando was determined to follow the Nirvana frontman into notoriety. Years of drugs and drink took their toll and the last we heard of him was Car Button Cloth, the rather poor final Lemonheads album in 1996.
Now he’s back, cleaned up and with an English wife in tow (whose photograph adorns the album cover). Baby I’m Bored is the sound of a man coming to terms with the excesses of his life and looking forward to the future. Musically it’s what you’d expect, breezy acoustics and winsome vocals. There’s an ache to Dando’s voice this time round however – just listen to the way he sings “well it looks like we’ve come to the end of the affair” on My Idea.
It’s difficult not to listen to Baby I’m Bored without hearing some autobiographical references to Dando’s troubles – indeed the chorus of All My Life (“all my life I thought I needed all the things I didn’t need at all”) could be the defining line of the album. Similarly, the self-explanatory Why Do You Do This To Yourself (“you stayed awake for 14 days and then you slept a week”) gives a clear indication where his head been at.
The effect isn’t self-pitying, but rather uplifting. The self-deprecating touches Dando adds, such as the line “I got a broken heart and two black eyes, but you should see the other guy” means that he steers clear of a tiresome celebrity confessional vibe.
There’s a wistful air to the majority of these songs, and there are some definite country touches to tracks like It Looks Like You and Hard Drive. It’s well documented that Gram Parsons is Dando’s hero and his influence is stamped all over Baby I’m Bored.
Various collaborators, including Ben Lee, Aimee Mann producer Jon Brion, and Calexico‘s Joey Burns all make their mark, but this is Dando’s album through and through. It probably won’t propel him back to the heady days of a decade ago, but it’s welcome reminder that while form may be temporary, class is more permanent. It’s good to have him back.