Lambchop is a band from Nashville, TN. They have been playing together in one form or another for over 20 years now. What started out as Poster Child in 1986 became Lambchop in 1993. Merge Records released their first full length, I Hope You're Sitting Down/Jack's Tulips, in 1994. Over the years Lambchop has remained true to its original form, a group of friends from in and around Nashville who gather on occasion, usually a Sunday afternoon at Kurt's house, to play music and enjoy each other's company. This loose collective can range anywhere from 6 to 20 musicians at any given time. The centerpiece, the defacto ringleader of this circus of sorts is Kurt Wagner.
Damaged will be the 9th studio album from Lambchop, to go along with two singles collections and too many EPs, 7"s and compilation tracks to recount here. Lambchop comes in at 15 members strong contributing to this record, in addition to a string trio assembled in Austin, TX by Mr. Peter Stopshinski. The newest members/collaborators in the Lambchop fold are Scott Martin and Ryan Norris of the Nashville based electronic experimentalists Hands Off Cuba. With all of these players and collaborators, it's safe to say that Lambchop might be the only musical "collective" on the planet that could take on Broken Social Scene in a fair fight.
Damaged is an intricate, subtle, and astonishingly beautiful record. In true Lambchop fashion, these songs, which seem simple and quiet at first, unfurl layer by layer until an elaborate tapestry unfolds almost effortlessly. Kurt Wagner's lyrics are packed with obtuse references and a sly wit that is infectious and compelling. In some of Wagner's most personal writing, Damaged covers dark and compelling territory, yet never loses its heart or the prevailing sense of hope and beauty that lies hidden in the mundane.
"Paperback Bible", which kicks off the album, is a pastiche that was commissioned by the folks at NPR to accompany an audio documentary about radio swap shops produced by Dan Collison and Elizabeth Meister. The piece aired on All Things Considered in the spring of 2006, and Lambchop was so pleased with the results that they included them here. The atmospheric, cut and paste intro and outro, assembled from instrumental passages in the song itself, are our first example of the contributions of Hands Off Cuba on Damaged, and Wagner weaves actual caller offerings and requests from the radio show into an esoteric batch of pure Americana that is quintessentially Lambchop.
"Prepared " appeared in a slightly different form on last year's "Co-Lab" EP, with Hands Off Cuba. This time out, there is a bit more of a jazzy feel, thanks to Tony Crow's languid piano, William Tyler's understated but stunning guitar work, and some beautiful string arrangements.
"I Would Have Waited Here All Day" was originally written for Candi Stanton, to be included on her recent album His Hands. Long time Lambchop producer/collaborator Mark Nevers was working with Candi on the album, and asked Kurt to write a song for her. As it turned out, Mark was concerned that Candi might not take to the language ("dick") and the smoking referenced in the song, so he initially did not show it to her. Of course, now that Lambchop has recorded it, Candi plans to use it for her next record.
"Crackers" - who besides Lambchop could write a song this great about cheese? Of course, it's about a lot more than that.
"The Decline of Country And Western Civilization" closes things out with a bang; a powerful and menacing burst of raw, free flowing emotion and observation that nonetheless turns out to be a love song to the listener in the end. A suitable end to one of Lambchop's most mesmerizing and intriguing records.
Damaged hits stores in late August 2006 and you can look for Lambchop on tour in North America in September/October. As you likely know, Lambchop tours in the States can be few and far between, but this one promises to be very special. The band will bring a full string quartet out on the road with them this time around. This is standard practice in Europe, but at last American and Canadian audiences will be able to enjoy the full Lambchop experience. Not to be missed for sure.