Reviews:: Lambchop Damaged

And in a complete opposite approach to a record, the year's final post is reserved for Lambchop's latest and greatest record to date - Damaged. Unlike Case, Lambchop and the travelling collective that is (somewhere between 14 and 17 people at last count), delivered a minimalistic, yet intensely powerful record.

The title and lyrical content are a result of Kurt's Wagner health issues and cancer scare, but any loose or wandering thoughts are left off this amazingly cohesive record. The tone of the record is set on the 7+ minute epic, Paperback Bible. Stings, electronic static, acoustic and piano create a landscape for Kurt's voice to happily transverse across. Despite the number of musicians and instruments that contribute to the project, even after a minute of the first song you sense a more subdued, reflective side of the band.

Wagner voice plays like a classic folk singer, never forcing tone or volume and that allows the delicate guitar work of William Tyler to shine through. His simple, understated solos really fill out the mix and set the scene for a lot of Kurt's imagery (like the beautiful steel The Rise and Fall of the Letter P). Every time I listen to this record I hear something new, and the melodies seem that much stronger.

The band seems to add just the right instrument at the right time (like the perfect horned crescendo at the end of Beers Before the Barbicon, or the simple electronic outros that hold the songs together), but never try to add too much. The plucked cellos on Fear contrast the gentle cymbal crashes and steel work, but no element ever dominates the landscape. Instead the song is like a leisurely country drive, not a crowded trip on the expressway.

The most distinct track is the album closer, The Rise and Fall of Western Civilization. Kurt's staccato delivery of his thoughts (even about Pitchfork media) is mixed with an atmospheric slide and strings but also see him presenting his thoughts with the most emotion. It's an interesting closer to a fantastic album.

This album is everything I like about music. It grows with me, offering more with each listen and combines talents musicians with poignant lyrics. It's taken me this long to realize just how much I love this record, and it's a pefect close to the year.

MP3:: The Rise and Fall of the Letter P
web page :: more tracks

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