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Lambchop - Mr. M

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Artist: Lambchop

Album: Mr. M

Label: Merge

Review date: Feb. 13, 2012

“Mr. Met,” the most lovely, haunting and intricate tune on Lambchop’s cryptically titled Mr. M, is not a tribute to the beloved Hall of Fame mascot, and does not include the lyrics “stitches in my face / bitches at my place.” But, in other respects, it continues a return to Lambchop’s simpler virtues that began in earnest with 2008’s OH (Ohio), the 20-year-old band’s most well-received album in years.

There’s the casual lowbrow humor and aw-shucks irreverence in Kurt Wagner’s understated croak (”You made me swear / Like used software,”, he sings, describing a troubled relationship) that leaven his observant, literate intellect. And there’s the ensemble’s elegantly shabby, broadly illuminating homage to a decade’s worth of traditions in popular Southern music, from Grand Ole Opry (the goofy, resigned pathos of “The Good Life (Is Wasted)”) to Muscle Shoals (the soaring arrangement and laid-back swing of “Gar”). After the cinematic sweep of the 2000 benchmark Nixon, a couple of mid-aughts albums of almost-unlistenable gentleness (Is a Woman and Damaged), and a lot of cast-offs, “Nashville’s most fucked up country band” has returned to where it once fucked around.

The band’s lush AM-gold lullabies and Wagner’s wry humor have always been a delivery system for a certain uneasiness, a nagging discomfort with the mundane, a sense of repressed grief (if not a wounded pride in its repression). However dreamy the lush strings render them, Wagner’s domestic portraits are always tinged with regret. And his wit can be toxic, or at least passive-aggressive, as on “If Not I’ll Just Die” and “Nice Without Mercy,” a brilliant song title even for him.

On Lambchop’s more ambitiously simple albums, such as Mr. M, that darkness is all the more affecting.

By Emerson Dameron

Other Reviews of Lambchop

Is a Woman

Aw C'mon / No You C'mon

OH (ohio)

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