Lambchop, Mr. M
Lambchop’s 11th album is a requiem, of sorts. The Mr. M of the title is a cipher for the late Vic Chesnutt, who died on Christmas Day 2009, and whom Lambchop backed on his 1998 album The Salesman And Bernadette. “Mr. Met” is also the almost-title track, seven-plus minutes of whimsical elegy to a friend. Even grief, it turns out, cannot thwart Kurt Wagner’s facility for joyous deadpan. “You made me swear,” he reminisces, “like new software.”
For all that the advance publicity for Mr. M has spoken of Lambchop applying a “radical approach,” the truth – probably inevitably, and certainly delightfully – is that Mr. M sounds entirely and unmistakably like a Lambchop album. The Nashville collective exist almost as a genre unto themselves at this point, defined by their stately strings, dryly funny words and Wagner’s parched whimper. All are present and triumphantly correct on Mr. M, especially on the swooping, featherlight “Buttons” and the exquisitely mournful closer “Never My Love.”
The only fault with Mr. M is the only fault with all Lambchop albums Â- a faint sense that they’re maybe too comfortable lolloping languidly along their famililar furrow, and that they might surprise themselves as well as their listeners if they ventured a foray into third gear ever so often. Rueful country trundler “The Good Life (Is Wasted),” the album’s unassuming highlight, is a tantalizing hint of what might yet result if Wagner ever fully embraces his inner George Jones.