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REVIEW: PreFix Mag

[ 0 ] February 12, 2012 |

Lambchop live at MergeXXREVIEW: PreFix Mag by 

“I felt Lambchop had one more good record in us…”

So said Kurt Wagner, the band’s front man, in the announcement for their new album, Mr. M. This kind of understatement — and when you hear the record, you’ll know it is understatement — seems typical of the soft-spoken crooner, but it also says something of the album’s unusual beginnings. Wagner turned to painting, and away from music, after the untimely death of long-time friend Vic Chestnutt  in late 2009.  Lambchop had backed Chesnutt up on 1998’s The Salesman and Bernadette, and the musical connection between the players on what may be Chesnutt’s best record is clear.

But music couldn’t heal the loss, so Wagner took solace in visual art instead, until Mark Nevers — producer and former full-time member of Lambchop — talked him into a new record. Mr. M is a different sort of Lambchop record in a very paradoxical way. It is, without doubt, a studio creation — the kind of intricate and carefully built that’s more of a collage of sound than a product a band can up and recreate organically. And yet, the album sounds more intricately textured and heartfelt than any Lambchop record to date. The album is dedicated to Chesnutt, and it plays like equal parts celebration and mourning, but it gets at both in an oblique way. As the layers and strings grow and swell in seemingly borderless size around Wagner, so too do his narratives wander, leaving us to find our own meanings in the details.

“Don’t know what the fuck they talk about,” Wagner sings to open the record on “If Not I’ll Just Die,” presenting a curiously profane opening to an otherwise sublime record. It’s also a perfect start, though. The album is about findin about finding hope and catharsis and beauty in everyday mystery. The song goes on to talk about grandfathers making noise in the kitchen, coffeemakers, all the stuff that fills up the day to day. That first line sheds all the frustration from mystery, from the unknown, and the rest of the record is cracked wide open.

That open space examines equally the past and the future. “2B2” has the same quotidian details — Christmas lights left out too long, for instance — that go ignored as Wagner worries over a long-distance relationship. On the sad isolation of “Kind Of,” Wagner has little more than bare cupboards, the way the branches frame the moon, a sound outside the bedroom door. As the minutiae piles up, it doesn’t drag things down into dark melancholy. Instead, bits of the everyday reveal themselves as more hopeful. They may remind us of past loss, but they also spark fond memories, inspire new ones.

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Category: Press & Reviews

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