Lambchop is a band that is full of contrasts, of subtle nuances that you’re never sure you have completely grasped. It’s a band that mixes wildly different ingredients: the flavors blend nonetheless, until it becomes almost impossible to separate them again. Here are two things you’ll find in all of their discography: a pinch of humor and a good swig of levity.
Because they spend so much time speaking in hushed tones of twilight ambiences, it’s easy to forget that the men of Lambchop, and Kurt Wagner the leader, are, much more often than it seems, pouring on the sarcasm. And, yes, in this Take Away Show, you’ll see them laugh. Not roaring laughter–but soft, like laughter between old friends that find comfort in their complicity. You’ll see him hang the lyrics of their song on the back of a friend, who gets transformed into a man/sandwich-board hybrid. There’s a sense of mischief with these guys.
As you hear them repeatedly unfold their dark, plodding folk with its slow-motion tempo, you forget that the men of Lambchop are usually specialists in levity. Each of their notes is retained as long as it can be, and each falls to the floor like autumn leaves that let go of the tree when their moment has finally come. However, this isn’t a Mark Hollis- style retention: it’s not a painful holding-on. It’s more a languid method, nearly carefree in its slowness, forged from an outdated sensibility of taking one’s time. (Copyright KMS on this idea.)
And now, in these videos, you’ll hear the bittersweet lyrics, sarcastic and not terribly optimistic, of “National Talk Like a Pirate Day.” You’ll hear the guitars stack over each other, turning one over the other, and finally taking flight. It’s a sweet take-off, calm and serene, a tiny crystalline tornado that sweeps up only some dust and a few leaves.
You’ll hear the deceptively adolescent tune (if teenagers could be capable of weightlessness) of “I believe in you”, and its way of taking hold, slowly, very slowly. Like building a house of cards, somewhat. Watch the city around them, too: the musicians are hidden in an unpopulated alleyway, and the little street doesn’t seem to realize what’s happening until the last minute, until everything is almost done. Hidden in the middle is the band’s final promise, their credo that almost nobody hears: “I believe in music.”
And then you’ll hear Kurt Wagner’s voice. If Antony is the voice of the new age, then he–this old, greying patriarch surrounded by young musicians who, it seems, could almost be his kids—is the voice of yesteryear.
- Translation by Caitlin Caven