Κυριακή, 4 Νοεμβρίου 2007

Lambchop - Is A Woman (US 2002)

Welcome to a world where heartache and regret are your best friends. Welcome to a world where songs are best served with a neat whiskey and a cigarette. Welcome to a world where you work out how to stop a table from wobbling by placing a matchbox under the leg. Welcome, in short, to the wonderful, weird world of Lambchop.
Kurt Wagner (who, in essence, is Lambchop) has been recording his baroque, downbeat masterpieces for eight years, sending critics into ever higher degrees of ecstasy while managing to leave the general public criminally unaware of his talents. His last album, Nixon, briefly threatened to break Lambchop into the big time, but it was not to be. Nixon was a luscious, soulful piece of work whose great variety meant that it was impossible to classify in an easy pigeonhole.
Is A Woman is released nearly two years to the day after Nixon and is the sound of a band stripped bare. All the songs here are just accompanied with piano, a quietly strumming guitar and the merest hint of percussion. It's all topped up with Wagner's heartbreakingly fragile falsetto, giving the impression of a man who has lived, loved, and lost, even when he's intoning lyrics such as "I have shat on the hillside".

Touted as "Nashville's most f*cked-up country band" by their label Merge Records, Lambchop was arguably the most consistently brilliant and unique American group to emerge during the 1990s. Their unclassifiable hybrid of country, soul, jazz, and avant-garde noise seemed at one time or another to drink from every conceivable tributary of contemporary music, its baroque beauty all held together by the surreal lyrical wit and droll vocal presence of frontman Kurt Wagner. Although Lambchop's ever-rotating roster would later expand to over a dozen members, the group formed in 1986 as a simple three-piece teaming Wagner, guitarist Jim Watkins, and bassist Marc Trovillion, former high school classmates already ten years removed from the educational system. Originally dubbed Posterchild, the trio made its earliest recordings in Trovillion's bedroom, self-releasing a series of cassettes with titles like I'm F*cking Your Daughter. In time, the lineup began to grow and the band regularly performed live in and around the Nashville area, often at the area record shop, Lucy's (not coincidentally owned by Wagner's wife, Mary).
Tracklist .

The Daily Growl 6:36
The New Cobweb Summer 6:57
My Blue Wave 7:52
I Can Hardly Spell My Name 3:24
Autumn's Vicar 4:16
Flick 5:07
Caterpillar 6:19
D. Scott Parsley 5:57
Bugs 5:43
The Old Matchbook Trick 4:41
Is A Woman

by Richie Unterberger
Many of the attributes that numerous alternative listeners have found endearing or annoying about Lambchop remain on this, the band's sixth album. There's the fragmented, sometimes mundane subject matter of Kurt Wagner's lyrics, his dry sing-speak voice, and an overall air of resignation that blurs the line between contentment and containment. Is a Woman has to rank as one of the group's better efforts, though, primarily since the coyness that could lead to aggravating pretensions has been muted, almost to the point of absence. It's also fair to say that, at this point, Lambchop was no longer an alt-country act. Perhaps there's still a touch of countrypolitan to the subdued songs and languorous tempos. But the effect is rather more like that of an arty lounge singer, with the deft piano, rich vibes, and occasional science fiction-like guitar effects. Wagner sounds something like an alternate-universe Randy Newman, not nearly as concise or direct in his imagery, but possessed of similar weary, reflective Americana. By focusing less on quotidian (i.e., boring) experiences of the proletariat and more on less-tangible allusions to death, troubled romance, and loneliness, Wagner's music is simply more approachable and meaningful, if still hard to puzzle out in its specific intent. Too, the sound is much more consistent from cut to cut than it has been on past Lambchop albums, with enough inventive tinges of soul and jazz to leaven the super-somber after-hours ethos. This is still way too idiosyncratic for mass digestion, but it's a definite positive artistic progression.

"I'm in love with the dead girl on the old and past picture"

Teardrops form a shadow
This tongue starts to waggle
That's a lovely dress
And oh that's just teaching

And it's not true you know
You swear and all by yourself
As time delivers for a while now
This may not appeal to you
But I can hardly spell my name

A Siamese beside his lonely awesome
And I've been waiting all my life
In spite of this arrangement
Moderation on vacation
It's time we all settled down

And it's not true you know
You swear and all by yourself
As time delivers for a while now
This may not appeal to you

But I can hardly spell my name

Chickadee tosses leaves out of her nester

My uncle's uncle's uncles fester
To chesnutt's empty sound
One by one they hit the ground
It's fall and it's warm
And i've got a sweater

Tell me nothing nothing's better
The flowers wilt from the weight of the leaves
But it's not the cold
It's the dryness

That makes it so, (groovy)
Believe you me
Believe me you
Let it roll

God cues his trees to drop their load
I've got some used cowboy boots
You've got some weed

It's a noisy cracked accumulation
Of golden brown, mr. Brown's first born
Can anyone get it
It's not too obvious
Two friends locked in a dutch romance

It's the angry middle aged distraction
Your postman stumbles in the yard
With a message long
You communicate through song
And take it up with the vicar

Believe you me
Believe me you
Grateful for the score
The nuts today you store
Could come in handy in the future


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