Kurt Wagner, you’ve done it again. And what might at first seem like praise on the part of this reviewer is in fact, indifference. For many artists, a reputation of consistency would be read in a positive light, the ability to produce innovative and interesting music release after release. In the case of Wagner’s ever-shifting collective Lambchop, however, it’s consistency that kills their latest full-length Damaged. If Lambchop ever had a muse, it’s surely forsaken them this time around, resulting in one of the most uninspired and (I’ll just say it) boring albums of the year. With an unprecedented number of musicians, 15 in all (and that’s before you count the string section!), the talent seems utterly wasted on Wagner’s new(?) batch of compositions that sound unsurprisingly not much different from previous album offerings.
Like the bastard son of chamber-pop and alt country, Nashville’s Lambchop excel in lazy tunes that are more suited for an elevator than your personal stereo. Background music for the times that you don’t want to know what you’re listening to, hearing Damaged is just a notch above background noise sans music. Kurt Wagner’s vocals have a way of getting on the nerves of even the most patient of listeners, with their mumbled delivery and entirely nonsensical sentiments. The musical accompaniment to Wagner’s voice in itself is not terrible, and as an instrumental score, would fit quite nicely on any movie soundtrack. Yet Wagner has a knack for sabotaging his contributors competent playing with utter nonsense in the lyrics department.
“I scramble our affection like some eggs” laments Wagner on “A Day Without Glasses,” and you can’t help but feel sympathetic for his failed attempt at simile. The slide guitar and piano glide in the background as an acoustic guitar provides sparse plucks. On the sauntering “I Would Have Waited Here All Day,” things go from weird: “There are dishes in the sink this morning/ they remind me of a dream” to weirder: “You’re dripping wet from a midday shower/ soon you’ll be drying off your dick.” “Crackers” features some nifty arpeggiated guitar work and lilting slide flourishes, but again, Wagner proves that when it comes to writing lyrics, he’s a “righteous piece of cheese.”
Damaged is an exercise in patience. If you can ignore the obnoxious presence of Wagner and his ridiculous lyrics, then it is quite possible to enjoy this music. But ignoring that nasally warble will most likely end in futility. After nine albums, it’s a wonder Lambchop are still making music, but as long as Kurt Wagner can wrangle up the musicians to record a new album, some unfortunate critic will bear the cross of protecting unwary listeners from its reach.
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