At the beginning of 2023, Tucson’s Lemon Drop Gang made their overdue return with ‘Sweetie Pie’, a track that re-introduced listeners to their ragged blend of CBGB’s infused riffs and Phil Spector-ish pop. As with the band’s previous works, it was far from sonic perfection, but then this band never pretended they were in possession of Brian Wilson or Todd Rundgren’s song writing chops or studio expertise. For fans, it was the kind of track that signified a fun and welcome return, whilst its digital flip side (‘The Party’s Over’) shared their love of 60s pop in its own brilliantly wonky way.
This double whammy offers some far better music, which will delight those already enamoured with the Gang’s semi-sloppy sound. ‘I’m Done!’ actually works far more in the band’s favour than those previous tunes, since it dispenses with any allusions to pop, and instead focuses on a high octane garage rock frenzy. By increasing the tempo, the guitars sound sharper throughout, and there’s a great vibe coming from the rhythm guitar used to created a muted chopping sound. With that colliding against a busy bass sound that occasionally gets to wield some genuine muscle, the number has a real intent, but factor in a 60s influenced surf melody and this is the ultimate in retro cool. A thin sounding guitar solo acts as a reminder that The Lemon Drop Gang are really raw, but a simple shout-along hook really sells a fun track. Sounding like a cross between a Jack White pet project, the Red Aunts and a frantic surf band, this is a number that really captures the band’s energy in the most direct way.
On the flip, ‘Johnny Is A Jerk’ marks a return of the band’s beloved homages to an early 60s Phil Spector sound, but it’s also a track that comes dressed in late 70s new wave finery. As before, this brings out the an element of trashy fun within in a retro sound when the band blends some very relaxed harmonies with a hard strummed acoustic rhythm. The musical highlight comes from a strident bassline, however, with meaty notes used to lift the basic melody, before dropping into a slightly punchier chorus. The decision to meld an old school melody with an angsty lyric might remind some listeners of the very early Go-Go’s, and the throwaway approach to the style could even be reminiscent of Josie Cotton, but with a certain amount of sass and a love for slightly off-key vocals used to accentuate a love of a disposable style, The Lemon Drop Gang makes the Spector-inflected world one of their very own.
With these two songs, The Lemon Drop Gang deserve to expand their audience. They’ve always sounded much better when really going for it, and ‘I’m Done!’ is the perfect exercise in combining a retro sound and a superb energy, whilst ‘Johnny’ is one of their better girl group pastiches. Their sound mightn’t be original, but these Lemons know their way around a timeless hook…and then some. The effort it takes to download digital singles is minimal, so this is worth grabbing if the price fits. In terms of retro fun, this is a small package that’s really big on musical thrills.