It says something, though I’m not sure what, about the strange place Evan Dando occupies in the culture, that the new Lemonheads album seems to actively involve both Gibby Haynes and Kate Moss, as well as Liv Tyler and John Perry from The Only Ones.

It says something, though I’m not sure what, about the strange place Evan Dando occupies in the culture, that the new Lemonheads album seems to actively involve both Gibby Haynes and Kate Moss, as well as Liv Tyler and John Perry from The Only Ones.

This unlikely band come together for “Varshons”, a selection of cover versions partially chosen by Butthole Surfer Haynes. Like the company he keeps, it shows that – all these years after the brief media phenomenon of “Dippy Dando”, grunge pin-up – Evan can still pull off a precarious balancing act between the mainstream and punk/psych arcana.

“Varshons”, then, manages to contain both a Christina Aguilera/Linda Perry song, “Beautiful”, and a GG Allin one (“Layin’ Up With Linda”). And it’s testimony to Dando’s strong, calm way with a song that he makes both sound great: “Beautiful” is handled in lovely, straight, understated fashion, while “Layin’ Up With Linda” reveals, more surprisingly, that beyond all the shit-throwing Allin was capable of writing a structured and pretty song, albeit one about drunkenly killing your girlfriend out of boredom.

I must admit I don’t know whether the original Allin version sounded like battered outlaw country, but Dando’s take on it sits very neatly just next to a great stab at Townes Van Zandt’s “Waiting Around To Die”. His voice is a little more cracked and lived-in than it used to be, which adds a certain visceral poignancy to these songs, and to Gram Parsons’ “I Just Can’t Take It Anymore”. Dando used to cover “Brass Buttons” and “$1,000 Wedding” back in the day, and I once wrote a cover story for NME that involved a lot of Parsons allusions – including Dando recreating the cover photo of “GP” in the Chateau Marmont – as well as some substantially messier business. The whole farce ended up inspiring the Lemonheads’ “If I Could Talk I’d Tell You”, but that’s another story.

Anyway, again and again through “Varshons”, Dando shows an unerring knack for turning any song into a wounded country setpiece, most notably on, of all things, Wire’s “Fragile”. What’s new here, though, besides that increasingly battered, reflective tone, is a taste – presumably encouraged by Haynes – for highly damaged psych.

Among a lot of fine tracks, maybe my favourite right now is Dando’s take on Sam Gopal’s “Yesterlove”, a drifting tabla meditation plucked from the late ‘60s Ladbroke Grove squats and written by an uncharacteristically tender Lemmy Kilmister. We’ve been playing the original a fair bit here – one of those rare record collector albums that actually deserves some of its reputation, if not some of its price tags – and the Lemonheads’ take is actually quite faithful;

If “Varshons” has the general atmosphere of a mature man taking stock of his life and his generally excellent record collection, it’s also rather satisfying to discover that Dando is still capable of doing tremendously daft things. In this case it’s destroying the beatific vibes of “Yesterlove” by following it with some preternaturally crass electropop – Arling & Cameron’s “Dirty Robot”, sung here with her usual flat charmlessness by Kate Moss.

“Dirty Robot” is awful – Moss must be an amazing friend to these people, because it’s certainly not talent or a proven commercial track record that keeps getting her singing gigs. But as an object lesson in reminding us how not to get too caught up in po-faced, hardbitten songs of frontier mortality and so on, it’s exemplary. And, like me, you can skip it after the first couple of listens anyhow.