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    Monday, August 28, 2006

    For which we are truly thankful: Lambchop MP3s

    The body is a fragile beast. One day, it’s just another thing to take for granted, the next, it’s breaking down like a battered car. Hair is shedding into your hands or your back can’t bend without darts of pain or time is inscribing its sloppy signature all over your face. Or much, much worse. Kurt Wagner, Lambchop frontman and indie iconoclast, had a piece of his jaw excised due to a malignant cyst. Doctors had to graft part of his hipbone in its place to lessen the damage. Then after getting through that, he had a major cancer scare. Where do you turn when even your cells conspire against you?

    Back to the studio to memorialize the pain, apparently. On Damaged, Wagner and his ever-expanding Nashville collective (between fourteen and seventeen musicians at last count) have returned in top form and graver than ever. On this ninth album, the follow-up to 2004’s Aw C’mon/ No, You C’mon, Wagner sings as if he’s weighted down. Some of his lines spill out like late-night confessions, truths he couldn’t bear admitting in the blue of daylight. The music helps to sustain the mood too, swirling, rich, and more layered than a quick listen would suggest. But it’s not the alt-country or country-soul labels that Lambchop's still saddled with. Not unlike Wilco, they’ve been so adamant in nudging the limits of the genre for over a decade that they’ve simply outgrown them.

    And while Wagner doesn’t address his recent experiences explicitly, they do linger over the lyrics. On "Short," he laments, "
    And our life hangs on a string/ And today we start to learn just what that means/ And somehow we’re faced with the fact/ That you won’t ever get this back." On "A Day Without Glasses," he tries to convert mortality into a positive: "But tonight we’ll have this whole place to ourselves/ And tomorrow will not have the chance to speak/ Come closer now so these words lay soft and low in your ear/ I’ve never had a moment of regret." But he comes closest to painfully honest with his blend of anger and humor in the closer, "A Decline of Country and Western Civilization," singing, "Soon I can do just what I please/ But I still hold my hip each time I sneeze."

    For all of its pathos and tough-won grace, Damaged is certainly not an easy album. It takes a very active ear and doesn’t begin to reveal its subtleties until about the tenth listen. But life isn’t easy and it never gets easier. We’re not any more removed or insured from the damage than Wagner. The difference is while all of our bodies eventually break down, Lambchop’s body of work only continues to grow stronger.

    * MP3: "I Would Have Waited Here All Day" - Lambchop from Damaged
    * MP3: "The Decline of Country and Western Civilization" - Lambchop from Damaged [Buy it]

    Comments on "For which we are truly thankful: Lambchop MP3s"


    Blogger Rachel said ... (5:49 AM) : 

    Wow this is quite dense, but
    The Decline of Country and Western Civilization just left me speechless.


    post a comment