For some perplexing reason, it's possible to read all
of Lambchop's press and walk away with the impression
that they're a country band. Perhaps the fact that Lambchop
calls Nashville home speaks louder than words or music.
The thing is, Lambchop are one of the most charming and accomplished
chamber-pop outfits you'll ever hear, appearing at a point midway between
Goldsboro and O'Rourke on the Big Imaginary Graph of Orchestral
Pop Music. The 13-piece ensemble has crafted ten tunes of exquisite
and luxuriant beauty. A song like "Up with People," which boasts a
full gospel chorus, isn't something you simply listen to; it enters your
home, flops down on your couch, takes off its coat and boots, lights
up a cigarette and hangs out for a few hours, bereft of any pressing
engagements. Horns flare, strings gently lull and guitars add glittering
melodic detail, while vocalist Kurt Wagner slithers his understated baritone
into your ears like an eager-yet-patient tongue.
Wagner also likes to sing in a dubious falsetto -- see "What Else Could
it Be?" -- that takes a bit of getting used to. While it's less obtrusive
than you'd expect, particularly if you're listening on a system with strong
bass response, the initial effect can be jarring. If you prefer your pop
without eccentricity, this could be a deal-breaker, though it's more likely
that the music will compensate.
If you're finding Nixon just a bit too somnolent, don't give up
until you've skipped ahead to "The Butcher Boy," which proves that
Lambchop can rock with fiendish menace when required.
Expansively orchestrated, Nixon ultimately comes off as beautiful
but slightly disturbing, just like its cover art. The price of pleasurable
listening may be a few bad dreams.