Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The healing process... or albums for the morning after

Play it: Lambchop - Damaged
Play it: The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely
I still hold my hip each time I sneeze
- "The Decline of Country and Western Civilization" Lambchop (Wagner)
Today sees the welcome release of several fine albums - a nice refreshing rain after a summer long drought. Two of these see artists moving on from the pain of the past.

Recently Lambchop songwriter/singer Kurt Wagner had to deal with a bone-eating cyst in his mouth that had eaten away his jaw - doctors ended up replacing his jaw with part of his hip. On top of that, Wagner also endured a major cancer scare, so it's no wonder Damaged feels so much like a man dealing with mortality.

The opening track ("Paperback Bible") is the result of an NPR challenge (invitation) to write a song about a Northwest Tennessee public radio called "Swap Shop." Like Sufjan Stevens before him (with the song "The Lord God Bird") Wagner final result was beyond expectations, and ends up being a highlight on the album. Wagner takes dialogue pretty much verbatim and makes it work somehow, making the mundane quite beautiful.

Other songs that rub the earstrings right are "I Would Have Waited All Day" (which was written, oddly enough, for Candi Staton,) and the gritty closer, "The Decline Of Country And Western Civilization."

The Mountain Goats' John Darnielle seems to have recovered from his own emotional jaw-replacement, as in his previous album (The Sunset Tree) Darnielle went toe-to-toe with the conflicted feelings of his deceased step-father. If ST was grief therapy, Get Lonely feels like a further step to recovery.

Taken as a whole, it's perhaps Darnielle's most complete effort, with so much effort given to track order and continuity. Initial listens won't illicit the highs of the past three albums on 4AD (Talahassee, We Shall All Be Healed, Sunset Tree,) but with repeated listens, the songs begin to reveal themselves. The song that pops it's head up first "Half Dead," which seems to channel Yo La Tengo, and "Woke Up New" (see video,) which finds Darnielle very optimistic. After a couple more times through, "In The Hidden Places" finds my goose-bump switch, and the lyrics of "In Corolla" begin to hit me hard.

Both albums make for a fine backtrack to your weekend morning, a sort-of morning after tonic, and I find myself needing albums like this more then aspirin.

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1 comment:

drake leLane said...

Lambchop - Damaged

1. Paperback Bible
2. Prepared (2)
3. The Rise And Fall Of The Letter P
4. A Day Without Glasses
5. Beers Before The Barbican
6. I Would Have Waited All Day
7. Crackers
8. Fear
9. Short
10. The Decline Of Country And Western Civilization

The Mountain Goats - Get Lonely

1. Wild Sage
2. New Monster Avenue
3. Half Dead
4. Get Lonely
5. Maybe Sprout Wings
6. Moon Over Goldsboro
7. In The Hidden Places
8. Song For Lonely Giants
9. Woke Up New
10. If You See Light
11. Cobra Tattoo
12. In Corolla