Lambchop: Damaged


Technical issues first: Lambchop are, after over a decade of releasing music, still feasibly classifiable as alt-country if your iTunes demands such. Fair enough; there're enough trace amounts of twang to register on a Geiger counter. The concern should end there, though—the fact that Lambchop beat Wilco to the punch in creating a sort of desolate, debris-strewn American beauty shouldn't be obscured by a baffled "but what is it?"

If the origin of the music is universally elusive—which, essentially, is what makes it work; chamber-pop that transmutes between compositions suitable for Sarah Vaughan or Lou Reed (or Al Green or Gram Parsons)—Wagner's lyrics are evocatively evasive, raising nonspecifics that tend to snap an idea into place when you're not paying attention. The bookend tracks are the big provocateurs: the quiet, noise-decay ambience of "Paperback Bible" is the shopping list of a rummage-sale barterer who goes from buyer to seller of the titular Good Book after a brief rumination on the murderous nature of handguns. And the delicately loud "The Decline of Country and Western Civilization" is sprawlingly hateful in the most relatable way, like that other Damaged album grown older and world-weary: "You see your Pitchfork i-rock saviors/And I'm sorry, I still prefer Jim Nabors," Wagner quips, a couple of verses after damning Ku Klux Klan founding member Nathan Bedford Forrest. Between those two is a vista of loneliness, entropy and fear—and damn, it's a gorgeous view of an ugly place.

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