A few years ago, Lemonheads leader Evan Dando looked like a can't-miss prospect. With the looks of a college-rock dreamboat, he accumulated credibility as a scrappy pop-punk fixture on Boston's club scene and, in 1992 with the album "It's a Shame About Ray," he distilled the appeal of his whimsical outlook and buoyant pop, which drew on punk and the '80s indie-rock of the Replacements and Husker Du.
The album took him to the brink of mainstream stardom, but the very qualities that fueled his quirky charm--a spirit of rootlessness, a penchant for celebrating triviality, a flakiness and elusiveness stemming from his well-documented drug habits--seemed to take him out of the running.
There's a sense of starting over now, but Dando didn't seem very interested in rebuilding bridges on Monday at the Troubadour, where he opened a two-night stand with his latest Lemonheads lineup. The new album "Car Button Cloth" might contain his most substantial music yet, but most of his Troubadour performance was indifferent and introverted, refusing to give definition and shading to the latest songs--material, including the grisly, tormented old country ballad "Knoxville Girl" and his own "Losing Your Mind," that is among his most touching and revealing.
It wasn't until a long solo encore segment that Dando seemed fully engaged, infusing his vocals with real urgency on a string of the Lemonheads' most aching, vulnerable songs, along with the Velvet Underground's "I'll Be Your Mirror."