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Album Review

After the ambitious sweep of releasing two full albums on a single day in 2004 and creating a collaborative electronic EP with Hands Off Cuba while assembling a collection of singles and rarities in 2005, one can hardly blame Kurt Wagner and his partners in Lambchop for wanting to take on a less challenging project for the group's ninth album proper. And indeed, Damaged is a simpler and more streamlined effort than Lambchop have offered over their last several releases. Damaged is a set of ten elegant tone poems which rarely call full attention to the size and scope of the 15-person ensemble (enhanced with a string section) employed for these sessions. But don't get the idea Wagner and his cohorts have gotten lazy; Damaged is as moving and accomplished an album as this band has ever made, with the subtle but expert musicianship used in the service of a handful of songs which look deep into the heart of longing, disappointment, and the troubling mysteries of faith. If you're hoping for an easy-to-follow narrative from Wagner's songs, you'll be disappointed, but through a collection of accumulated, gestured, offhand asides and occasional confessions of weakness, he creates a world that's telling, poignant, and as real as the dust in the air on a Sunday morning. And the mighty Lambchop ensemble approaches the melodies with the care and dynamics of a great orchestra, where each note is carefully balanced as if it was assembling a house of cards that can miraculously balance a grand piano. While Lambchop's country gestures recede a bit on Damaged, as a master class in the art and craft of record-making in the great Nashville tradition, this album is a true wonder, a quiet and deliberate recording that cumulatively hits with a massive emotional impact. This ranks with the best work of one of America's most original musical visionaries.


Formed: 1993 in Nashville, TN

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Touted as "Nashville's most f*cked-up country band" by their label Merge Records, Lambchop was arguably the most consistently brilliant and unique American group to emerge during the 1990s. Their unclassifiable hybrid of country, soul, jazz, and avant-garde noise seemed at one time or another to drink from every conceivable tributary of contemporary music, its Baroque beauty all held together by the surreal lyrical wit and droll vocal presence of frontman Kurt Wagner. Although Lambchop's ever-rotating...
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Damaged, Lambchop
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