The opening track on 'Damaged', the eighth/ninth album (depending on how you count 2004's 'Aw C'mon' and 'No, You C'mon') from the Nashville-based collective that is Lambchop, is truly gorgeous. 'Paperback Bible' is a shimmering, melodic meander through the odd items on offer - a rat terrier pup, old bird bath, Berkeline recliner and a prom pageant dress, "worn just once" - from a Tennessee Public Radio phone-in swap shop programme. It's another glorious example of frontman Kurt Wagner's ability to take the mundane and, over a running time of almost eight minutes, make it sound utterly transcendent.
Although the rest of the album is perfectly listenable, it never quite manages to hit the heights of that first song. Once again, Wagner's dark, resonant baritone is supported by rich instrumentation from the 17 or so current Lambchop members, with a particular emphasis on William Tyler's guitar, and atmospheric and textural contributions texture from electro duo Hands Off Cuba.
Written as Wagner wrestled with ill-health and a cancer scare, 'Damaged' sees him musing on themes of decline, disintegration and disillusion. In 'Prepared (2)' lush music sweetens lyrics that document the fragmentation of a relationship and an angry Wagner has a rant on explosive closing track, 'The Decline of Country and Western Civilization'. But, as if to counterbalance, there's also affection on 'A Day Without Glasses' and 'Beers Before the Barbican'.
For all its beauties, 'Damaged' may not be the best introduction to Lambchop - for that you'll have to go back to the lushness of 2000's 'Nixon' or the altogether quieter 'Is a Woman' from 2002 - but do make sure you get your hands on 'Paperback Bible'.