No one genre can do Lambchop justice.
Since 2000's 'Nixon' album, Lamchop have had the UK serious music magazines eating out of the palm of their hand (this writer included) but the act has been a going concern since 1994's debut album. With a fluid line-up, the main focus falls on frontman Kurt Wagner and it's his velvet vocals and storytelling prose that has seen Lambchop hailed as one of the key American acts of this millennium. In selecting line-ups depending on the songs he has written and how he wishes them to be performed, Wagner has created a legacy that goes far beyond the expected country or alternative country boundaries, leaving the band as one of the most respected acts around.
'Damaged' is the latest release from Lamchop and proves to be as beguiling and as interesting as the ones that have preceded it but crucially, appears closer to the critic's favourite of 'Nixon' than other recent albums have done.
With Wagner's vocals having a downbeat, smoky end of the night feel to them, many would quickly write the band off as being depressive but this is to woefully understate the band. Many of the musical flourishes are positively uplifting, with the horn embellishments on 'Beers Before The Barbican' sounding joyous and punch the air happy. Even when the next track kicks off with a line about "there's been dishes in the sink since this morning" the light guitar steps and sweeping undercarriage gives the song a glow.
With Wagner expressing the importance of anticipation and hope, Lambchop are clearly an act who put thought and emotions into their work. From the opening track, 'Paperback Bible', the lyrics may be of a confusing nature but coupled with the melody and warmth, the impression that the underlying messages are there to work out will surely evolve and develop with repeated listens. Upon realising that the lyrics are based upon Wagner's thoughts on a "Swap Shop" styled show, the feeling that the man could sing a shopping list and give it empathy and gravitas comes to mind and doesn't diminish anything about the record.
An album entitled 'Damage' is always likely to show scars and wounds and the past year has had difficulties for Wagner, with a serious health scare surfacing. However, the spirit and hopefulness of the record means there is no despondency or wallowing to be found and it'll be an album that will offer enjoyment and happiness to many.
The biggest problem that Lambchop have is that they don't seem to fit a scene and too many people try to pigeonhole them or ignore them because they don't sit neatly into a pre-conceived idea. Here is a scene that Lambchop easily fit into, a scene of great bands who make great music; if this sounds interesting to you then give 'Damaged' a listen, it wont disappoint.