BABY LEMONADEThe High Life Suite (Sympathy for the Record Industry)
The first time I saw Baby Lemonade play was in September 1993 at the Palomino, where they backed up Arthur Lee so astoundingly that several Love fans in attendance were crying tears of joy. A few months later, I caught ’em doing their own thing at Club Lingerie, and was fairly knocked on my ass. They were young, they were good-looking. They had a dynamic rhythm section, a crazed motherfucker of a lead guitarist, a vocalist who sounded like a soulful version of Elvis Costello, and a bottomless well of melodic pop songs that mixed ‘60s roots with ’90s brashness. No question about it, they would soon be huge.
Alas, the Palomino and the Lingerie are gone, and now so is Baby Lemonade. The fame and fortune that many predicted for them never materialized: Maybe they didn‘t tour enough, or they waited too long to get professional management, or the major labels that briefly courted them had no idea what to do with a rock band led by two black guys who loved the Beach Boys. Or maybe, like a million other bands, they just didn’t “put it all together” at the right time.
I mention all of this only because The High Life Suite, Baby Lemonade‘s farewell release, has too much class to do so. While other bands in their shoes might have bitterly given the world the finger, vocalist-guitarist Rusty Squeezebox, lead guitarist–vocalist Mike Randle, drummer David Green and latter-day bassist Jim Laspesa simply dedicated themselves to making beautiful music. Co-produced with Nick Walusko of the Wondermints, the record’s eight interconnected songs veer from oceanic introspection to stomping arena-rock and back again in just over 20 minutes. Dizzying, audacious and oftentimes gorgeous, Baby Lemonade‘s last record is their first real work of art, a labor of love that’s truly worthy of their heroes.