Making Lemonade? I Think Not.

May 9, 2003
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Two singles, one good song...

Cons:A whole bunch o' filler...

The Bottom Line: Two singles do not make for a good album. Tonic's Lemon Parade is their most popular album to date...too bad it stinks.

The epitome of “one hit wonder,” alternative/roots rock band Tonic has somehow continued to make a musical career out questionable talent.

Formed in 1993 by singer-guitarist Emerson Hart, the band’s lineup was soon completed by childhood friend and guitarist Jeff Russo, bassist Dan Rothchild, and drummer Kevin Shepard. Tonic spent much of the mid-1990’s flexing their wimpy music muscles in the LA music scene. It was during this time that they landed a major label deal with A&M.

In the soupy post-grunge musical movement, Tonic fit the mold nicely. Their sound really wasn’t any different than anything else out there…and other acts did a better job anyway. The mid-1990’s were populated by loads of sound alike pretty boys. Some were on the whole respectable like The Wallflowers and Semisonic while others including Sister Hazel and Dishwalla were not even close to acceptable musicians. Tonic fit somewhere between the two poles with a distinct leading toward the less respectable.

Tonic released their debut, Lemon Parade, in 1996. This album has been to date the band’s biggest success by far. But with that said, commercial success stemming from a hit single or two is not indicative of the quality of said album. Strangely enough, the band returned two more times for beatings with 1998’s Sugar and 2002’s Head on Straight. The most recent album got overwhelmingly bad critical reception, though for some god forsaken reason Tonic was nominated for two Grammy awards for their work. Of course they didn’t win Best Rock Performance By A Duo or Group With Vocal for Take Me As I Am and Best Rock Album.

But Tonic’s mediocre rise to semi-stardom all began with Lemon Parade and two overplayed hit singles--Open Up Your Eyes and If You Could Only See. The album was clearly written and recorded around these two tracks, and making hit singles is by no means a good motive to burp up any disc.

Any good in Lemon Parade is thrown out the window after the first three songs. It seems that whomever pieced together the end product knew full well which songs would be on the radio and felt it necessary to save innocent listeners from the agony of enduring an entire bad album. So the disc kicks off with a long, whinnying line of electric feedback. Sounding like a slightly crunchier version of The Verve Pipe, Tonic pieces together a mid-paced wimpy rock track. It is entertaining enough, but in the end is absolutely indistinguishable from everything else from 1996.

Continuing on, the band suddenly switches to mainstream Stabbing Westward mode with a less throaty vocalist—Hart. Casual Affair goes nowhere in particular. It drones on purposeless and lackadaisically. Nothing strikes the ear as even moderately interesting. Much the same issues occur later on in the album with equally repulsive mid-tempo tracks including Thick, Wicked Soldier, Bigot Sunshine, and Celtic Aggression.

The second (and final) overplayed hit is If You Could Only See. It is without question the brightest element of this overall incredibly dire album. What puts it in a different category is that Tonic experiments with tempo and mood, something that is completely lacking in their other offerings. Even the lyrics are catchy, but with that said it is still by no means a masterpiece…just better than average and squished in a sandwich of crap it seems all the much better.

Soldier’s Daughter marks the beginning of the end of any respect I once had for Tonic. It is a weepy ballad, the kind of song that turns my stomach and sends terrible chills up and down my spine. The band tries so hard to be honest and intelligent, but in the end these efforts seem like a big cliché. Tonic is the joke, Lemon Parade is the butt. Similarly bad pseudo-emotional disasters Lemon Parade, Mountain, Mr. Golden Deal and eventual album closer My Old Man add insult to injury. The only thing that separates one song from the next is an occasional twangy guitar or quickened pace.

Tonic, an incredibly bad band, somehow manages to both stay together and keep making music. This of course should give hope to all of those garage bands with even minimal amounts of talent out there. Heck, this act can’t even seem to name their songs. Check out the titles…most are two words and most seem to have little cohesive meaning. Celtic Aggression? Bigot Sunshine? Lemon Parade? Come on, Tonic, I’m not buying the act. They weren’t anything special six or seven years ago and are no more important today.

Rating: 1/5 stars

Track Listing:
1. Open Up Your Eyes
2. Casual Affair
3. If You Could Only See
4. Soldier's Daughter
5. Lemon Parade
6. Mountain
7. Thick
8. Wicked Soldier
9. Mr. Golden Deal
10. Bigot Sunshine
11. Celtic Aggression
12. My Old Man

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