Lambchop
Awcmon/Noyoucmon

By Demented Toddler

 
Kurt Wagner and his sizeable Nashville outfit have simultaneously released these albums, a call and response, Awcmon and Noyoucmon. during 2003, Wagner decided to write a song a day, some of which are included here, some of which form a soundtrack for a 1927 film by FW Murnau, Sunrise. As might be expected, the two records have plenty in common, not least that they are both in contrast to the spartan, piano-led mix of Is A Woman. Instead they feature the whole band, very much arranged, set off and set apart from what has gone before by Lloyd Barry's genre-skipping strings. besides all this, Wagner himself seems to have taken something of a back seat – there are plenty of instrumentals on both 'cmons, and the mastering (and Kurt's love of mister nicotine) means that a listener has occasionally to strain to hear his lyrics.

Perhaps more than on their previous efforts, one comes up against a real problem with the 'chop: they're so good at sounding beautiful that it's too easy to hear only that, and miss their meaning. Lambchop are often described as a 'quiet' band, but 'subtle' is maybe a more useful label. Kurt's songs don't just require aural attention to make them out: the differences between the serious and irreverent songs seem scant, not least because of his appreciation of the irreverence in the former, and seriousness in the latter. In Each Time I Bring It Up, It Seems To Bring You Down, he seems to chastise himself as much as anyone, 'Let's not try to answer / with subtle irony / instead of common sense'. But he can't really help himself. On a song of weight loss, Four Pounds In Two Days, even his correction is full of deadpan hypocrisy: 'OK that was maybe a little heavy / on the wordplay'. In About My Lighter (note one of the few similarites between the ’Chop and The Streets), these ideas are treated in a playful couplet: 'When the paper describes a wreck / they manage to mangle the subcontext', whilst in Steve McQueen, they resonate thoughtfully through repetitions of 'means' and 'seems'. ‘or take me serious’, Kurt offers at the end of one of these… and his repetitions too serve to underscore this ‘or’, so that the extremely personal, ‘reproductively unsound / reproductively inclined’ is not so distant from the jokey ‘Please don’t worry / guess that i’m worried / don’t be worried / you look worried / let’s not worry / we’re not worried / try not to worry / about my lighter’.

One of the most impressive things about the band is how much sense they make together. The musicians and singer know when to leave each alone as much as they know how to work in exquisite harmony. Gentle, wry twists in the lyrics are picked up in the music. The word 'tickle' on I Hate Candy is accompanied by a tickle of guitar. The often narcotic effect of the melodies are echoed in lines like 'take a pill or take a pause', 'somehow with the help of pills I remain a pillar of calm', and a line which seems almost a recipe for a good Lambchop song 'Your drug of choice / mix it with a voice that's creepy'.

Of the two, Awcmon is the more consummate effort, almost perfectly formed, heaven both to overhear and listen to, Lambchop doing what they do best. Noyoucmon, while there are some fine tracks on it, is the unsurprising result of a period of song-a-day writing which concludes in the release of two albums. The almost inevitable slip in (mainly musical) quality control which has resulted makes the second of these a testing of the band's boundaries. The uncharacteristically lively Nothing Adventurous Please, inane Shang A Dang Dang, and frankly nauseating Jan 24 sound like uncharacteristically amateurish efforts. Neither the songs nor their execution seem to do the ’chop a great deal of credit, but perhaps they will prove otherwise in a live context. That being said, Noyoucmon is worth a little irritable track-skipping for the rewards it offers, even if those of its counterpart are virtually uninterrupted.
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