by Philip Moss
The love of playing music – just for the sheer hell of it – comes through loud and clear on Lambchop’s TRIP
Perhaps more than any other sector, the arts has taken a huge hit during the recent pandemic – with touring musicians, in particular, affected. In foresight of their planned tour getting pulled, Lambchop’s Kurt Wagner invited each member of the band out to Nashville, and tasked them with selecting one song, which the band would record a cover of during a one week session.
To all intents and purposes, the last two Lambchop records have been very close to being Kurt Wagner solo projects – such was the singular vision of FLOTUS, and career best, This (Is What I Wanted to Tell You). On both LPs, Wagner doubled down an electronic pathway – inspired by the likes of Bon Iver’s 22, A Million, and his wife’s love of play listing her favourite pop music, namely Beyonce – embracing drum machines, synths and vocoders. But here, on TRIP, Lambchop very much become ‘Lambchop’ again. A group of guys who love playing music together – capturing the spirit of how so many bands find their feet – creating their own interpretations of their favourite songs.
Such an idea could result in a sprawling mess of styles, but there’s a thread through TRIP that makes it work. Opener, Reservations – a cover of last track on Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot – initially follows the original arrangement; there’s more of a relaxed feel to the vocal harmonies than is present on the Chicago band’s version, but it soon takes a left turn into minimal jazz and unnecessary new age stutters.
But these are the only stutters TRIP makes. There is a mediative feel to Where The Grass Won’t Grow – perhaps born from the relaxed feel of the sessions – which brings a soothing comfort. And like tuning into a well curated radio station, the song choices, at times, do feel like they have come a little from left field, but they are as great as they are unexpected. Shirley offers the opportunity to dig deep into 70s Ohio band, Mirrors’ back catalogue, while Wagner’s honied baritone offers a very special on the take of The Supremes’ Love is Here and Now You’re Gone. It’s closer, Weather Blues though, that is the most special cut here: an unreleased song written by Yo La Tengo bassist, James McNew, that brings the record to a melancholic, understated finale.
There’s something particularly endearing about the idea of creating a mixtape for a friend. Picking apart the selections. Finding links between the lyrical, or thematic threads. Here, the six members of Lambchop have all contributed in the choices, resulting in an unchallenging, but particularly endearing record – where friendship and the sheer joy of playing music is right at its heart.
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