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There's an unspoken rule in rock music that the more musicians added to a band, the worse the group gets. Yet, there is always the band that breaks the rule. Nashville's Lambchop are currently riding with 13 members these days and everyone of them is essential to constructing the endless variety of sounds. They've even added the Nashville String Machine and a choir to their already overloaded crew. Their fifth album, Nixon, is the greatest actualization of their sound to date. At times, it recalls lush romantic movie music ("You Masculine You," "Nashville Parent"), at times perfect late-'60s, early-'70s Philly soul ("What Else Could It Be?") or dreamy countrypolitan ("The Distance from Her to There"); but no matter, it is always ensemble playing of great empathy and support. Singer-songwriter Kurt Wagner expresses clever joy and gentle sadness, but with punch-drunk horns and Westernly pedal steels sweeping like tumbleweeds, it's easier to just get caught in the sway and go with it. --Rob O'Connor
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I had never heard Lambchop before, but they sounded interesting from the various reviews I had read. I gathered, from reviews of their earlier albums, that their sound may have changed a bit. Nonetheless, Nixon seemed like as good a place to start as any.
My first impressions of Nixon still seem valid a week after I first heard it.
1. Kurt Wagner writes some really beautiful music.
2. He's gotta ditch that falsetto, tho'.
Kurt is an amazingly talented songwriter, musician, and arranger; this is clear from the start. And maybe the falsetto felt right, given the soul influence displayed on several songs here. But that's the only reason I didn't give this 5 stars; that weak falsetto of his. (As it is, Kurt has a limited vocal range; he kinda talk-sings to a degree.) Other than that , this is a great album.
Grumpus, You Masculine You, What Else Could It Be?, Distance From Her To There, and I think Nashville Parents are all good songs aside from the afore-mentioned falsetto. Nashville Parents and What Else Could It Be? both have that late '60's/early 70's soul feel to them. The Book I Haven't Read shares a writing credit with Curtis Mayfield and is another fine song.
My favorite songs are The Old Gold Shoe, Up With People, Petrified Florist, and Butcher Boy. The Old Gold Shoe and particularly Up With People are just amazing songs, period.
The Petrified Florist and Butcher Boy (an obscure cover) have a menacing vibe to them, and end the album on a high note (for me).
If you appreciate many different styles of music, you may like this album. If you're expecting some sort of alt. country thang, there's only one song on here that sounds like country (The Distance From Her To There), and though it's a good song, you may not like the other songs.
However, if you have an open mind/ear, this album will not disappoint.
So buy this record and leave that turd behind.
To compare this music to anything is difficult. The voice of Kurt Wagner is unique but the atmosphere of Lambchop's many songs of this album falls somewhere in between of Barry White and certain songs by David Bowie. Add some soprano to it at times, especially here on Nixon. To me this album is probably their strongest overall, although I also like Is A Woman (2002), a lot. Nixon (2000) carries quite some variety within but it does sustain a certain climate. It does not feel just like a collection of songs, because of it. We got 13 musicians here forming Lambchop at the time, plus 4 guest musicians, string section and the choir. Kurt has 4 other musicians backing him up vocally and the instruments range from 11 various guitars, 2 pianos, juno, saxophone, vibraphone to open end wrenches and lacquer thinner can. The sound is very rich but very mellow most of the time, and a lot of these instruments often create beautiful background more than come to center stage. However, to my ears the effort is well worth it. This music is full and complex in its subtle way, and it does bring us that relaxed lounge atmosphere of doing it for fun and with ease. Lyrically, as always with Kurt, very ambiguous, not meaning much, funny, funky a bit dirty at times. The focus is not on what Kurt sings but how his voice sounds, and it is a voice of larger range and more texture than most of them. I don't care so much for his Bronski Beat-like super high pitch (although it is excellent) but his usual crisp tired and deep in all meanings magnificent tone I like a lot. My favorite songs of this album are: The Old Gold Shoe, Nashville Parent, The Distance From Her To There, The Book I Haven't Read. This is one of these Lambchop albums were songs are quite different from each other, as opposed to their newest Oh Ohio (2008) for instance, where you could almost hit the shuffle play and every time say your favorite song is going to come up. I might be exaggerating a bit, but it is an album of an extremely even balladic mood. Here are my favorite songs by Lambchop: Nothing But A Blur, I Can Hardly Spell My Name, There's Still Time, The Old Gold Shoe, Interrupted, The Distance From Her To There, Begin, Nashville Parent, My Blue Wave, The Problem, Shucks, Steve McQueen, I'm Thinking Of A Number (between 1 and 2), The Book I Haven't Read, Paperback Bible.