US - Tennessee - Full Moon 42 - 03/20/00
Another album from Nashville, Tennessee's Lambchop, and critics go raving and drooling.
Once described as a mixture of Mazzy Star and Camper van Beethoven, chop-maestro Kurt Wagner
and his 13+/- man/woman-orchestra of hazy, shady, country-and-soul-drenched beauty,
with delicate instrumentation (twangy and atmospheric guitars, strings and horns). Their
1998 album, What Another Man Spills is still on my personal A-list. Could the
presidential (conceptual?) ghost-hunting (there's even a list of suggested litterature
on "Dick") of Nixon do the same trick?
Since the debut, I Hope You're Sitting Down (1994) they've released 4 albums (one
mini), and their How I Quit Smoking (1996) was (still is) an acclaimed master-piece
of their perfectionist Nashville-sound. They've become smoother, yes, but Mr. Wagner sure
has got the ability to write warm and melodic (and indeed melancholic) songs. On their last
album they did some versions of other people's songs, interpreting Fred Cornog (East River
Pipe), James McNew (Yo La Tengo), and Curtis Mayfield. This time Wagner has written all,
except one co-written with Curtis Mayfield (who died last December), plus one song (the
up-tempo and exciting The Butcher Boy - a tragically ending in-love-story) of public
domain. Of the 10 songs on the album there are some I like more, like the laid-back C&W
opening track The Old Gold Shoe, Up With People (sort of a mixture of Lloyd
Cole and the Triffids?), What Else Could it Be (a very catchy, easy-listenable song,
making you want to grab the sleaziest 70's dress to aim for the danceroom-floor, even though
I find the high-pitched vocals a bit, eh, silly), and, finally, the pair I like the most:
the extremely beautiful (Fearless) The Books I Haven't Read (the Wagner/Mayfield
song), and the dark and broody The Petrified Florist.
However I find Nixon a bit to nice and clean sounding (they now and then remind
me of the dangerously-close-to-sterile world of Prefab Sprout's pop sound, with the voice
of Wagner not being far from Paddy McAloon's). Nice and beautiful, yes, for sure, but I
miss some variation, and some roughness, and some more temperature and energy. Like their
excellent version of McNew's indeed catchy It's Not All Right 2 years ago. But, of
course, Nixon is filled with beautiful songs for heart and soul. A soft-filtered,
blurred crusade against evil.
Copyright © 2000 Håvard Oppøyen