Claiming the title of Nashville’s most fucked-up country band doesn’t mean much. If one doesn’t attend church on the regular and speak in tongues in that town, it’s pretty easy to be marginalized. So really, Kurt Wagner and whoever else he decides to record and tour with as Lambchop are normal by most standards. But Lambchop isn’t really a country band. After dispensing with the singer-songwritery portion of “Popeye,” from the band’s 2008 “OH (Ohio),” Lambchop launches into an effort that could be Tortoise jamming. The six-minute song isn’t completely focused on that synthetic groove, but Wagner’s vocal section gives way to the instrumental workout effortlessly enough to make listeners believe he enjoys the musical telepathy as much as painting verbal quandaries. The entirety of the songwriter’s legacy is quicksilver. From one album to the next, Lambchop picks up players, drops them, apes a more rock ‘n’ roll sound or turns in laid-back instrumentals—“Gar” being a highlight from the group’s latest effort. The fifth word on “Mr. M,” Lambchop’s 2012 recording, is a plaintive fuck. Cussing upfront like that belies the album’s orchestration. But combing through Wagner’s past, it appears that he’s interested in odd juxtapositions. Over the course of Lambchop’s release schedule, Wagner’s seen fit to appropriate two well-known titles for his own satisfaction—neither namesake having any apparent musical bearing on the Nashville troupe’s work. 1997’s “Thriller” and the 2006 “Damaged” are in-jokes that aren’t meant to be funny, just provocative. Like Wagner naming a song “National Talk Like a Pirate Day,” a song on which no one talks like a pirate or describes the momentous holiday, Lambchop’s album titles are a weird game between their creator and his audience. Is the auld tymey black gentleman on the cover of “Mr. M” actually Mr. M? There can’t be a real answer to that, but it makes us all wonder. And that’s what a creative effort should do. (Dave Cantor)
April 24 at Lincoln Hall, 2424 North Lincoln, (773)525-2508, 8pm. $15.
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