But underneath all the colours and textures of country, Philly soul and new wave...
Chris Jones 2002
In 2002 Lambchop's erstwhile leader Kurt Wagner decided he wanted to hone what he saw as his somewhat rusty songwriting skills. Thus he set out to write a song a day, and in Lambchop's case, a tune a day has resulted in this ''butt load of material''. It's a sprawling double package; touted as two separate albums with distinct identities (and perhaps the best titles of the decade so far). Aw...is a coherent mood piece, better experienced as a whole while No...is a more jarring, disparate set of songs that jostle for your attention. Either way, it's a big chunk of Lambchop to take in one sitting.
The band, again, seem to have shifted laterally. New guitarist William Tyler is promoted to a more prominent role (even getting a namecheck on the opening instrumental ''Being Tyler''), especially on the second disc/album. In fact, while the first disc - composed as a whole score for Murnau's 1927 silent movie, Sunrise - returns to the lusher stringscapes (courtesy of Lloyd Barry) that marked Nixon, the second tends to be stripped back to an almost punky ethic (''Nothing Adventurous Please'').
The metaphor of music as a tapestry woven of numerous thematic and aural threads is an old and hackneyed one, but that doesn't stop it being a particularly succinct way of describing these albums. Listening to Aw...is not dissimilar to standing in front of an enormous tapestry - so close in fact that you can only see the various elements that make it up and never really understand the bigger picture. But underneath all the colours and textures of country, Philly soul and new wave attitude is the rough material of Kurt Wagner's voice, muttering darkly about his life's minutiae.
Its a grainy, gruff, staccato constant that, after a few tracks, begins to remind one of Vic Reeves' club singer; it's so clipped, mannered and shorn of musicality. The Curtis Mayfield falsetto of old has gone and we're left to concentrate on what it is exactly that he's trying to tell us. Acertain lack of distinction between songs tends to make such prolonged exposure difficult at first, but Wagner's particular genius is to appear off-hand and somehow still achieve a weird kind of profundity. Whether everyone will commit to such a large slice of low-key Nashville life is another matter...