City Slang - 2004 - Awcmon: 45 minutes, Noyoucmon: 47 minutes
First things first. This may appear to be a double album (it's packaged as a single unit), but it's not. It is, as Lambchop linchpin Kurt Wagner points out, two albums being released simultaneously. They are the product of the recording session for a new score for the 1927 silent film 'Sunrise', and a remarkably fertile spell for Wagner in late 2002/early 2003 in which he set himself a target of having to write a new song every day. The band ended up with, as Wagner so eloquently puts it himself, "a buttload" of material.
This may sound like a grave insult, but the first of the two, 'Awcmon', could be described as easy listening. Not because it's banal MOR, but rather because there is very little hard work here. Lyrically it's not all sweetness and light ('Each Time I Bring It Up It Seems To Bring You Down', 'Women Help To Create The Kind Of Men They Despise'), yet many of the tracks are gentle, easy going affairs, like a scenic trip unrestricted by time. 'Being Tyler', 'The Lone Official' and 'Timothy B Schmidt' typify this best - strings and piano dominating all three, like a jamming session with the singer a peripheral figure.
But yet when that figure is Wagner, it's best not to keep him out of things for too long. It's not that Wagner is a good singer, because he's not, but his oddly seductive drawl is a huge part of what makes Lambchop so appealing. On the best track here, 'Action Figure', Wagner comes into his own, mumbling lazy couplets which come together to form a poignant yet hopeful picture of everything, and nothing.
'Noyoucmon' is similar to its companion, but probably more spontaneous. It draws on a wider range of influences (jazz, rock, country) too, and sees the ever-growing band line-up having as much fun as they've ever had. 'Low Ambition', 'Shang A Dang' and 'Under A Dream of A Lie' are either breezy or bluesy; 'Nothing Adventurous Please' is a fuzzed up rocker, and charming instrumentals both begin and end the ensemble. Wagner is given his spotlight too, bringing an air of realism to things on 'About My Lighter' ("I still worry/That's my nature"), and plaintively punctuating the moody 'Listen'.
Although we have to accept that these are two separate albums, sometimes it's hard to fathom why Lambchop didn't pick the best from both and go with a single release. It'd be hard to whittle them down to 10 or 12, but there is certainly enough here for one unforgettable album. As it is, it's a fine achievement that there's enough to make two good ones.
A massive treat for fans then, and a good place to join the Lambchop journey for everyone else.
Awcmon tracklisting: Being Tyler - Four Pounds In Two Days - Steve McQueen - The Lone Official - Something's Going On - Nothing But A Blur From A Bullet Train - Each Time I Bring It Up It Seems To Bring You Down - Timothy B. Schmidt - Women Help To Create The Kind Of Men They Despise - I Hate Candy - I Haven't Heard A Word I've Said - Action Figure
Noyoucmon tracklisting: Sunrise - Low Ambition - There Is Still Time - Nothing Adventurous Please - The Problem - Shang A Dang Dang - About My Lighter - Under A Dream Of A Lie - Jan.24 - The Gusher - Listen - The Producer