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Thursday, June 1st, 2006

Each Time I Bring It Up It Seems To Bring You Down

For reasons unknown, Lambchop never seem to get any respect. While they certainly qualify as “critically acclaimed”, and deservedly so, they don’t seem to generate much excitement from the hipsters and tastemakers when they release a new record or tour or whatever. Maybe it’s because they’re possibly about as uncool looking a collective as you can get. Or because their name conjures images of that annoying puppet that I wanted to inflict unspeakable harm to as a child.

It’s a cliche to say that an act is unclassifiable in sound, but in Lambchop’s case it’s really true – there’s a case to be made for calling them country, soul, rhythm & blues, chamber pop, lounge, jazz, rock, indie, and they’re all as inaccurate as they are accurate. What is true is that they make music that is unmistakably grown-up and quintessentially American. Boasting upwards of a dozen members, this Nashville-based mini-orchestra is led by one Kurt Wagner, whose droll, smoky and conversational singing style often leaps into an unexpected and endearing falsetto. As befits a band of Lambchop’s size, the music is rich and lush and nimble, able to shift from country shuffle to torch song to rocker without missing a beat. Truly an aural treat.

Relatively quiet since releasing 2004’s double-album set of Aw, C’mon and No, You C’mon, 2006 saw them release two rarities/unreleased/incidentals collections on either side of the Atlantic in April – one for their UK label City Slang and one for their American label Merge. Cheekily titled The Decline Of The Country & Western Civilization (1993-99) and The Decline of Country & Western Civilization, Pt. 2: The Woodwind Years respectively, the two collections have about half their tracks in common making them a maddening proposition for the completist – especially since they’d surely have at least some if not most of the material in their original formats.

But less frustrating will be the release of their new album of all-new material Damaged on August 22. Wagner tells Billboard it’s a blend of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin, some electronica music, Dylan, and even [HBO series] Deadwood“. Clocking in at only 10 tracks, it would seem to be laser-focused compared to the C’mon volumes but for all their sprawl, I quite enjoyed both of those discs. I often forget how much I like Lambchop until it occurs to me to play one of their records. If the September tour Wagner mentions includes a T.O. stop, I think I’d have to work that into my calendar. I do love string sections.

Here’s a couple of tracks from the Country & Western Civilization comps, a track from 2000’s Nixon and a video for the title track of 2002’s Is A Woman. The band’s unofficial MySpace also has some audio. Update: And thanks to Ned No-Love for pointing out this NPR piece that also has a stream of the first official track from Damaged. And there’s also a podcast courtesy of Merge.

Stream: Lambchop – “Paperback Bible”
MP3: Lambchop – “The Distance From Her To There”
MP3: Lambchop – “Mr Crabby”
MP3: Lambchop – “You Masculine You”
Video: Lambchop – “Is A Woman” (YouTube)

A labelmate also putting a record on August 22 is M Ward. Billboard also got some info about his new one, Post-War.

File under “kinda nuts” – someone went to the trouble of creating/recreating/adapting the video for Okkervil River’s “For Real”… in Lego. Check it and the original out:

Video: Okkervil River – “For Real – Lego version” (YouTube)
Video: Okkervil River – “For Real – non-Lego version” (MOV)

Sarah Harmer makes her feature film debut in The End Of Silence, which will screen at NxNE next week. Chart talks to Sarah about stepping in front of the camera. Catch Sarah in more familiar environs July 27 when she plays Harbourfront.

Exclaim! discusses the solo life with Amy Millan. Amy has got two NxNE shows on the sked – a June 9 solo gig at the Reverb and then her full-band hoe-down at the Mod Club June 10.

Australian rootsies The Audreys have signed a Canadian record deal and are playing the Horsehoe on July 5 to celebrate. Maybe someone can persuade them to post a complete song – streaming is fine – somewhere for folks to sample? Only posting 30-second clips is SO 1998.

Ex-Sunny Day Real Estate/Fire Theft dude and general idol to sensitive kids everywhere Jeremy Enigk will be in town for a solo show at the El Mocambo on August 7. He has a new solo album due out this Summer but if you can find any more specific information than that, you’re a better person than I.

And a couple more shows – French Kicks are at Lee’s Palace on August 4, tickets $12.50, and Mouse On Mars is scheduled at the Mod Club on November 9.

np – The Sleepy Jackson / Personality – One Was A Spider, One Was A Bird

By : Frank Yang at 8:25 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. Seth Beatty says:

    Glad to see a Lambchop story, they are one of my favorite bands. The new album is fantastic.

  2. ned says:

    with the exception of the elvis costello cover, all the songs on the european version of lambchop’s "decline of c&w civilization" appeared on their first merge rarities collection from 2002 "tools in the dryer".

    there’s also an article on the npr website about the lead-off track from "damaged" (which apparently they commissioned, sufjan-style) that links to merge’s stream of the song as well: http://www.npr.org/template

  3. sdw says:

    It’s not "Black" the name of that Okkervil song it’s "For Real".

  4. Frank says:

    whoops, brain fart. fixed, thanks.

  5. RR says:

    Best music blog posts a story on the best American band…made my morning.

    Thank you!

  6. Glenn says:

    Maybe the mood is different up there, but in the States Lambchop gets nothing but respect. The overwhelming respect they do get, though, is critical respect that is out of sync with the band’s mild (at best) popularity.

  7. Frank says:

    I was referring more to the blogerati – a technorati/google blog search for "lambchop" was a wasteland. Serious critics love em, and deservedly so, but the hip kids don’t seem to care so much.

    MAybe it’s because Kurt wears his trucker cap unironically.

  8. yoti says:

    Awesome OR videos Frank – both of them. So creative. In the non-lego version, I love how the girl rescues the guy at the end – it’s a beautiful visual metaphor. Such a dark and wonderful song, I continue to like it a lot.

    The lego animation is very cool. Still, I’m not sure if anything will top the lite brite animation in Rilo Kiley’s "It’s a Hit" for me (video section of http://rilokiley.com/).