Reviews

Explore the Warm New Wave Sound of Texas Trio Don’t Get Lemon’s New Album “Have Some Shame”

Twilight youth cultivates cries

And you never got to say goodbye

Screams shake off of concrete

Police and thieves get paid across the street

And here’s a bullet for your thoughts

Carving out their own distinct path in the thriving and diverse Texas alternative music scene, Don’t Get Lemon stands out as a genre-defying act that captures all the great things pop music used to be in the halcyon days of the new wave era. The band’s intriguing name, Don’t Get Lemon, comes from a playful twist on Cockney rhyming slang for “don’t get smart,” referencing the phrase “lemon tart.” This choice reflects their sharp, witty approach to music and homage to influences like The Stone Roses and the spirit of the ’68 Paris riots.

Specifically, The Stone Roses, an iconic Manchester act, famously incorporated lemon imagery into their 1989 debut album cover as a political statement. The lemon, used by protestors during the May 1968 Paris riots as an antidote to tear gas, symbolizes protest and defiance. This imagery resonated deeply with Don’t Get Lemon, influencing their name and underlining their own music’s themes of resistance and speaking out against societal issues.

Central to the world-building art-pop ensemble Don’t Get Lemon are the trio of Austin Curtis, Nicholas Ross, and Bryan Walters, three longtime friends whose combined creative vision has thrust the band headlong into the limelight with their stylish take on post-punk and synthpop. Austin Curtis, with his magnetic charisma, serves as the band’s suave frontman, whose powerful vocals and stage persona are captivating with their mix of theatrical flair tinged with intense emotion.

Nicholas Ross and Bryan Walters amplify Austin Curtis’s performances with their versatile musical skills, shaping the distinctive sound that defines the band. Ross, a wizard on both synth and guitar, weaves the music with dense, atmospheric textures, while Walters anchors the tracks with his robust bass lines and dynamic percussion. Their lyrics, however, make these politically charged anthems of our time, with topics of social media, school shootings, and the general malaise of the 2020s.

Have Some Shame, available now through à La Carte Records and Summer Darling Tapes, was put together in rural Texas by Dan Duszynski of Loma/Sub Pop fame, and given its final polish by Paul Gold, known for his work with LCD Soundsystem and Animal Collective. This lively set of tracks pushes back against the detached coolness of typical coldwave, opting instead for a warmer, more passionate approach the band playfully calls “Heatwave.”

The album opens with the aptly titled title track, which explores themes of authenticity and materialism. It contrasts genuine emotional experiences with the superficiality of fame and external appearances, leading to alienation and the contemplation of the emptiness of public life. The song emphasizes the need for emotional honesty and criticizes those who lack self-awareness or remorse.

Next comes the powerful Blow-Up, which addresses vulnerability, internal conflict, and disillusionment. The recurring idea of imminent self-destruction reflects a deep-seated fear of personal downfall or demise. The repetition, percussion, and chorus of this song evoke a Combat Rock-era Clash vibe.

Say Something New For Once, with its winking and exaggerated indie-pop swagger, expresses frustration with superficial communication and a longing for genuine, meaningful dialogue. This desire for authenticity is coupled with a critique of pretentious or empty literary efforts, yearning for something truly profound.

Highway 59 is an effervescent journey through time and sound, with bubbling retro synths that recall the nostalgic undertones of Survive and Black Marble, coupled with a vocal delivery that finds a unique crossroad between the haunting depth of Dave Gahan, the chameleonic allure of David Bowie, and the resonant croons reminiscent of early-2000s post-punk revival. The presence of the guitars is subtle yet profound, shimmering with an ethereal quality that evokes the peak artistry of The Cure’s Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, and Disintegration, with echoes of the iconic Cocteau Twins Gretsch sound as heard in Crushed.

Just in time for graduation season, Pomp and Circumstance packs a wallop of political commentary about the repercussions of gun violence in schools. The song reflects on the disillusionment and frustration of youth in its wake – as well as the harsh realities of urban life, and the sense of hopelessness that can deter aspirations. The tone is one of mourning and deep introspection, lamenting the loss of innocence and the pervasive pain in contemporary society.

Last Chance For Romance explores the tension between professional obligations and personal desires, portraying an internal conflict: does one follow their dreams or fulfill their job duties? The theme of longing for recognition and love adds a layer of emotional depth to the struggle between duty and desire. This is followed by Automatic Gore, a journey from empathy to apathy… and back towards a reconstructed sympathy. It critiques societal norms and power structures, lamenting the inequities of wealth and opportunities, ultimately seeking authenticity in a reimagined reality.

Nostalgia and longing, painted against a backdrop of elemental imagery like wind and waves, take centre stage in The Crest of A Wave. There’s a profound sense of loss and a desire for renewal, culminating in an acceptance of personal shortcomings and a relinquishing of control.

We leave the album with another timely track, Pop Star Salvation, about transient nature of fame and the superficiality of modern success. It asks the tough question: does distinguishing oneself truly offers lasting value or historical significance? A “tear-stained love letter” auctioned to the highest bidder; the personal struggles of tortured poets – all commodified for survival, underscores the cynicism toward the entertainment industry.

Listen to Have Some Shame below, and order here:

Don’t Get Lemon will be on the road with Holy Wire during the summer of 2024.

Tour Dates:

  • Saturday, June 8th ˑ Austin, TX ˑ Hotel Vegas
  • Friday, June 14th ˑ San Antonio, TX ˑ Hi-Tones
  • Saturday, June 15th ˑ Dallas, TX ˑ Double Wide
  • Sunday, June 16th ˑ Tulsa, OK ˑ Whittier Bar
  • Monday, June 17th ˑ Kansas City, MO ˑ Farewell Cafe
  • Wednesday, June 19th ˑ Milwaukee, WI ˑ Bremen Cafe
  • Thursday, June 20th ˑ Chicago, IL ˑ Livewire Lounge
  • Friday, June 21st ˑ Ann Arbor, MI ˑ Ziggy’s
  • Saturday, June 22nd ˑ Pittsburgh, PA ˑ Remedy
  • Sunday, June 23rd ˑ Cincinnati, OH ˑ Madison Live
  • Monday, June 24th ˑ Nashville, TN ˑ The Cobra

Follow Don’t Get Lemon:

Alice Teeple

Alice Teeple is a photographer, multidisciplinary artist, and writer. She is not in Tin Machine.

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