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Key Tracks: “If Not I’ll Just Die,” “Gone Tomorrow,” “Kind Of”
Mr. M is a 56-minute slow dance. The entire Lambchop album is so soothing and mellow that it almost puts you into a dreamy trance. Frontman Kurt Wagner’s smoky voice, however, keeps the listener attentive and interested in the lyrics he's singing.
The album is dedicated to Vic Chesnutt, an old friend and collaborator, but most importantly a great inspiration to Wagner. Chesnutt committed suicide in 2009, the loss putting Wagner into quite a slump, as he put down his music to pursue painting. Fortunately, he emerged from hibernation to create the most recent Lambchop work of art. Many of the songs on Mr. M channel the hurt experienced by Wagner and reflect inquisitive musings about life, love and death.
Lambchop emerged in Nashville in the early '90s and they were immediately established as a country band. By their eleventh album, the band has shifted from country sounds to a more alternative and jazzy feel. It is impossible, however, to place this band into a specific genre. Wagner is so skilled at mixing genres, you can’t tell what you are listening to, let alone what time period it is from. When listening to Mr. M, you may feel like you are a kid again listening to your parents's oldie records. Wagner’s voice along with the light and quiet instrumentals give a '40s, smooth-jazz vibe. Mr. M laces country undertones with a modern fuzz and features smooth, jazzy vocals.
The thing about Mr. M that really grips you as a listener is its bareness. Wagner opens up the album with the lyrics, “Don’t know what the fuck they talk about,” catching the listener off guard with the profanity. The rest of the lyrics to the opening track, “If Not I’ll Just Die,” are extremely heartfelt and expressive, perfectly matching the eloquent strings. The song goes on to outline a number of occurrences and observations that make up and ordinary day. “2B2” follows a similar pattern by describing certain daily happenings that tend to be overlooked with lyrics such as “The Christmas lights left out too long” while Wagner also solemnly sings about a long distance relationship.
“Gone Tomorrow” is the album's only single and is, as expected, more upbeat that the other tracks. The song opens with a soft country sound and undergoes an instrumental crescendo as Wagner’s voice remains relatively static throughout. The contemplative yet hopeful tone contrasts with “Kind Of,” which really is a bummer of a song, channeling sad isolation. “The Good Life (Is Wasted),” is an obvious statement of guilt regarding Chesnutt’s death. With the lyrics, “the good life is wasted on me,” Wagner feels it is wrong to continue a happy life following the death of his friend.
Mr. M maintains a perfect balance between lyrics and instrumentals and is poetic in a profound sense. The content causes the listener to contemplate life, as Wagner travels through an array of different emotions. The album is overall hopeful and heartfelt with only bouts of despair. After nearly two decades, Lambchop is still going strong and is likely to please listeners with its most recent masterpiece.
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