Evan Dando's latest, Baby I'm Bored, is an excellent EP. Unfortunately, it's actually an LP, comprised of several outstanding songs and a disappointing amount of lazily written filler. Many critics have likened the long-anticipated album to a Christ-like resurrection, but this hyperbole is probably due to a lowering of standards. In his tenure with/as Lemonheads, Dando demonstrated an impressive lyrical talent and good ear for sunny pop melodies. On Baby I'm Bored, Dando's old self peeks through, but it would be impossible not to admit that he seems a bit worse for the wear of years spent in drunken debauchery.
Taken by itself, out of the context of Dando's discography, Baby I'm Bored is a pretty album, perfect for summery days in the backs of pick-up trucks. When put up to the test of his earlier work, 1993's masterful It's a Shame About Ray for instance, it's undoubtedly a lesser accomplishment. The narrative pull of the lyrics is gone, except in superior tracks written by Aussie Ben Lee, "Hard Drive" and "All My Life," "Why Do You Do This to Yourself" is about watching a loved one self-destruct, but doesn't seem to evoke anger, concern, or any other appropriate and compelling emotion. The title and chorus would suggest a confrontational demand, but the songs lazy alt-country tone ends up sounding like something said to someone in passing, without thoughtfulness or sincerity.
To be fair, Baby I'm Bored does have a few mixtape-worthy tracks. "Waking Up," for instance, has great hip-wriggling potential, and "Hard Drive" is perfect small-town driving music. "In the Grass All Wine-Colored,"though lyrically simplistic, captures a lazy, hazy summer day perfectly. When listened to as the product of a hard-won recovery, the album has a few profound moments. The refrain in "All My Life:" "All my life/I thought I needed/All the things I didn't need at all," is sung with cathartic sincerity, sure to be encouraging for those who though Dando was really lost forever. Dando's ability to intimate complex emotions is evident in "Shots is Fired," which manages to evoke the sorrow that "Why Do You Do This to Yourself" should.
The album is a must for Lemonheads fans, but to those who've never heard Dando before, it seems a better plan to plunder his back catalogue. It would be unfair to give the Dando the credit that so many have, because to do that would insinuate he can't do any better. Those who've followed Dando's career know that he can do better, and has. Though it has its moments, Baby I'm Bored has trouble hiding what it really is: a record whose creation involved a lot of struggle. It lacks the effortless brilliance of the Lemonheads' best works, and gives the rather worrying impression that it may take even longer for Dando to eke out a follow-up. Fortunately. Dando's famously clear and beautiful voice hasn't deteriorated at all, so if and when he gets it together to make one, we can hope it will recapture his earlier albums' glory.
2. My Idea
3. Rancho Santa Fe
4. Waking Up
5. Hard Drive
6. Shots is Fired
7. It Looks Like You
8. The Same Thing You Thought Hard About Is…
9. Why Do You Do This to Yourself?
10. All My Life
11. Stop My Head
12. In the Grass All Wine Colored