Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Nashville’s most fucked-up country band. - Lambchop

If a band could be like a single, a double A-side, one you could flip over so that you find The Fall appears on one side then on the other would be Lambchop. How so? They are not alike, not even similar. One band influenced by the likes of Captain Beefheart, The Velvet Underground, Can and Van der graaf Generator. A smorgasbord of sound, when mixed, gives a very European take on black music; very English in fact.

Kurt Wagner, the man behind Lambchop, its lyricist, songwriter and band leader, has introduced a very different set of inspiration come stimuli. to his ensemble. Lambchop can thank the likes of Conway Twitty, Barry White, Burt Bacharach, Curtis Mayfield, The Jesus and Mary Chain and country music for supplying the  vital flavours. The major difference between The Fall and Lambchop, bearing in mind my premise that these two bands are opposite sides of the coin, is that one is relentlessly pumping whilst Lambchop are almost lounge lizard like; gentle but never soft. "They are more in keeping, philosophically, with bands in the so called No Depression movement (Wilco, Son Volt, Jayhawks—to name a few) in that their aim is to create a new sound based on country music but not limited by it."

So then, why the hell have I compared two distinctly different bands?

The Fall are abrasive, repetitive, post-modernist and led by the acerbic Mark. E. Smith. Lambchop are agreeable, roaming, traditional and led by the mild-mannered Kurt Wagner.
Again, why the comparison when neither band or man are alike?
But they are. Both men are band leaders. Both men are independent of the mainstream. Both men write songs with thought provoking lyrics. Both men have an individuality that echoes in their music. Both.lead a band whose output is leftfield.
Think about it. Kurt Wagner's lyrics are nothing like the sound that drifts in and around his melodies. Orchestral strings play the sweetest of notes, a piano lays down delicate chords; an acoustic guitar strums as though played from the porch on an evening cast in the soft glow of an orange sunset. Then you hear those words, softly sung/spoken, more a confidential whisper than a shout. Those words float in unexpected like children scurrying around the living room having spent the day at play. Words that don't quite fit the mellowness of the music and yet ....

The gold stereo
Stretches out the sound
Turns the plates until they're rounded
The whole that you know
Gets closer to the ground
Closer to that thing you found
For all our massive brains
To call on choked remains
It's painful, it's certain
That something's bound to break
This house is not alone
I'm kicking 'round here somewhere
So check behind the ancient speaker
Like painful southern bliss pured upon like caramel
And garnished with some crushed pecans
To grow is not to grind
To mope is not to mind
The old cap, the geezer
The 15 second teaser
Behold and you know everyone's a ringer
He's not even a very good singer
The dirt on the tracks
Has hardened into clusters
Earthen legs and honey mustard
A storm is closing in
Our leaves start to spin
It's getting much later
I wish I heard your radio
The people in the rain
Are staring through our backs
Wishing you had half a brain
For all our little pain
Tender is the mangle
The science diet the ivory tangle
The world goes away
Each every stinking day
I'm getting much better
This night's little up-setter
The kids out in the street
Take their toys and break them
Look at them, then walk away
The guy on the cross is holier than I
But then again he's made from plastic
For all our massive brains
To call on choked remains
It's painful, it's certain
That something's bound to break
There's cattle tied with a a chain
Pinch the weeping Willie
I know it's dumb but sometimes I'm silly
I crawl out of the rain
Think of me as fetal
Think of me as the fifth Beatle
The Old Gold Shoe is the first track off of the mesmeric album Nixon
Kurt Wagner writes words that are insightful, vague, ambiguous even but still manage to get you thinking. Understated in their delivery; this allows for, or invites the listener to do precisely that - listen. As you do that casual voice invokes a gentle diatribe, almost Platonic in the way Wagner delivers his wisdom, his take on a given subject. The thing I like is deciphering the message. There may not always be one but still I listen.

Yes, that casual, easy going manner belies a mind filled with an enquiry. It deceives the listener upon first hearing the music. You could be forgiven for initially thinking you have put on a Carpenters CD by mistake. Trust me, Lambchop is nothing like that duo.
The aforementioned 'Nixon' is, loosely, a concept album about that man Hippies loved to hate. Sorry, I do Hippies an injustice, the man any sane person would, if not hate, certainly dislike. The album is filled with that sharp intelligence, that incisive intellect that comes coated in caramel but contains darker tastes.
It is the band, or Wagner perhaps, very idiosyncrasies that sets them/him apart. They do not seem to be part of any given school but stumble along, playing their wistful sounds as if either drunk, or just disregarding this odd world we inhabit. Wagner croons in the way an old fart on the bus does. Voice cracked from one to many ciggies, one too many beers, one too many nights down at the local bar. A lot of the songs seem to be observational with Wagner mimicking what he has seen, transposing it to music before breathing a new, slightly twisted vision into it.
The sweet fluidity of the music is matched by an equally fluid approach to members who come and go adding various textures as the leave their mark.  
At a pinch, me trying to tie down that feeling I get when I listen to his band, it feels like a gang of people, guitars, cellos, trumpets and trombones, all gathered in a local shed, a large shed it has to be said, whereupon they strum and toot and play. It is a natural sound combining two paradoxical concepts - raw ambivalence with apparent sentimentality, syrup and gravel. With them the dichotomy works. I don't know how it just does.
Russell Cuts the Corn From The Brewers Whiskers.

1 comment:

Cara H said...

Where do you find these bands? I never heard of either of them. Lambchop sounds like they'd be my kind of band, though I can't help thinking of the Shari Lewis puppet when I hear the name.
Splits with two different bands are pretty common in the Scandinavian underground metal scene.

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A Utility Fish Shed Blog

A Utility Fish Shed Blog