FLOTUS – Lambchop Review 

Since their formation in 1986, Lambchop have never wallowed in clear waters. Kurt Wagner’s tentative outlook has stretched far and wide, from albums sitting within rock, to alternative country, to cabaret. However, as I listen to 2016’s offering, FLOTUS, thoughts of Bon Iver’s distinct distortions spring to mind. The band’s experimentation is wholly embodied in this 68-minute tracklist, reaching peaks of great sharpness and sophistication.

Are we allowed to be surprised that Lambchop have dipped their toe into yet another genre? For long-time fans, the ethereal, resigned motion of the album may be something to get used to. In Care of 8675309 eases us into the new approach, whilst giving us a one-on-one tour of Wagner’s investigative mind. As his vocals melt into the instrumentalism, I can’t help but feel a sense of drowning, as one elongated, despondent line welds with the next. The song deliberates an assortment of gloomy issues – diffidence in the lyric “is there something in this that is worth singing?”, vulnerability in his declaration of power that is “merely human” – unforgivingly drawn out over eleven minutes. Succeeding that is Directions To The Can, which is introduced by quick buzzes of guitar. It worries me slightly that the ‘experimental’ genre, a route conquered by the likes of the aforementioned Bon Iver, is becoming less and less experimental by the minute, as more artists aim to take it on, sounding too familiar to the last guy. Having said that, Lambchop have made it their own by affixing their rock affairs to the backing tracks, hooking their past to their undisputed future. Very original and interesting.

Lampchop’s novel identity apexes in Relatives #2. This one hasn’t stirred up as much attention as FLOTUS’s other ten contenders, yet its connection with multiple genres is particularly strong. Led by an almost pop-like vocal warp, the song proceeds with drum shuffles, jazz piano twinkles and a funky bass, before settling with calm whir of the synth and the “ooooh” of distorted voices. The highlight of the album, though, waits patiently at its conclusion. The Hustle juxtaposes 8675309, shedding light on the joys of human existence; finding love, enjoyment and cutting ties with inhibitions. The song surrounds a wedding ceremony, opening with the vow to love the other person for a “long, long time”. The 18-minute number could track their lives as a couple, with up-beat instrumentalism, and Wagner’s voice unedited, implying an undisguised, raw love for the song’s recipient. It’s contrasting connection to the dark opener makes it an all-the-more vivid acme.

As the album presented itself, I expected not to like the monotony of it. True, it can be very samey, but also undeniably captivating and clever.

Lampchop – FLOTUS: 8/10

Eleanor Chivers

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