Lambchop – Showtunes – Album Review
by Killian Laher
Lambchop have evolved from their alt-country beginnings to become a vehicle for Kurt Wagner’s genre-defying music. This is Lambchop’s sixteenth album, released a mere six months after covers album Trips. Still very much in the autotune mode, this time James McNew of Yo La Tengo is involved, on bass.
Opening quirky ballad Chef’s Kiss crawls into view with Kurt Wagner’s manipulated guitar / keyboards to the forefront and his own soft, reassuring vocals. This is one of the more accessible tracks on the album. Drop C and Fuku are a little strange, reminiscent of some of Radiohead’s Kid A material. Drop C sounds like three songs in one, incongruously mashed together, Wagner singing “like somebody’s mother you sang the blues”, over treated brass and breakbeats. Fuku on the other hand is punctuated with snatches of brass, ending with a long, ambient coda.
The piano bar jazzy Papa Was A Rolling Stone Journalist starts out like easy, piano bar jazz before turning in on itself to evoke Bernard Herrmann’s Taxi Driver soundtrack, ending abruptly after 2 minutes. Wagner is still autotuning his vocals, which is very evident on the all-over-the-place Unknown Man and the fucked-up sentimentality of Blue Leo. An unadorned acoustic guitar opens the instrumental Impossible Meatballs. It’s the probably the easiest track on the ears, a slab of calm on an unnerving album. The final track is the relatively calm (if a little warped) The Last Benedict, which throws in some really incongruous opera singing amongst the gentle guitar picking and piano.
It’s hard to imagine what kind of show these tunes would be for. A brief album at eight songs in just over half an hour, it’s hard to know exactly what you’re listening to. This shape-shifting elusive album, will surely be one of the stranger offerings this year.