Lambchop – Previewed

Longevity and tragedy may have taken their toll, but Nashville’s survivors Lambchop remain undimmed…

Having spent a languorous morning reacquainting ourselves with Nashville, Tennessee’s Lambchop recently, it was with some pleasure to realise a short while later that they would soon be coming to a venue near us.

Their delicate, tender and occasionally searing take on the genre and state that birthed them has always been the sweetest of music to these ears, even if at times it has been a difficult listen.

Rising to a certain prominence in 2000 with what many consider to be their masterpiece Nixon (Uncut awarded it their Album of the Year), the band has rarely enjoyed the same degree of attention since. Not that their relatively small amount of time spent gazing into the limelight has been a hindrance to their longevity, however. Nor their on-going appeal.

“Lambchop have earned their place in the Americana/alt. country lexicon”

For those unfamiliar with the oddly named, Kurt Wagner-led band, Lambchop have been doing the rounds long enough to have earned their place in the Americana/alt. country lexicon while never truly or entirely being ‘of’ that scene. Almost two decades since the band released their first album, they continue to confound and delight.

Their latest release, Mr. M (the 11th in that long career) is, says Lambchop’s Jonathan Marx, “dedicated to the late musician Vic Chesnutt, a friend, fan and collaborator.” Unsurprisingly then, it is filled with outwardly mournful, lugubrious songs about loss, death and mysteries of where time goes when life happens.  

But this is the furrow the band has resolutely ploughed for those two decades worth of material, away from – if not out of touch with – the glare of the mainstream. Far from this leading to a dead-end, accompanied only by loneliness, legions of fans have travelled that furrow in their wake. It’s almost as if in spurning the chase to be relevant they have guaranteed a self-perpetuating niche of the stuff all of their own.

“Wagner has described the sound of Mr. M as ‘psycho-Sinatra’”

That isn’t to say the band hasn’t enjoyed a slow progression in style during their long existence either. For his part, Wagner has described the sound of Mr. M as ‘psycho-Sinatra’, and it’s true that an – albeit very peculiar – take on ‘60s lounge acts, crooning included, has never been too far away from their signature.

Think Andy Williams crossed with the Silver Jews by way of Bill Callahan – they lull the listener as they go, into a very false sense of security, toward something akin to a bitter, if welcome, embrace.

If this all sounds somewhat bleak, it is only slightly misleading. That said, there is a deep pleasure to be had in listening to these darkest of lullabies, and ironically perhaps, a very real warmth in Wagner’s occasionally soused-sounding vocal. It’s all accompanied by beautiful strings and a musicianship of the highest quality, making all that ostensible sadness worth it every time.  

Rather than being songs of and for the downright miserable though, there exists here an unmistakable and strangely comforting sense of cosy melancholy, as well as a never-too-far-away sense of hope.

With this, allied to the blanket critical acclaim for their latest record (indeed, as with most of their 11 albums), there seems little sign of them disappointing or disappearing any time soon. And for that we should be thankful.

Lambchop Tuesday 7.30pm @ the Kazimier with support from Rob Vincent £20 

Posted on 24/06/2013 by thedoublenegative