Lambchop: Damaged

Lambchop
Damaged
(Merge/Slang)

Damaged is either Lambchop’s eighth or ninth album (depending how you look at it), and the title is particularly poignant for frontman Kurt Wagner. Between the release of the 2004 Lambchop double album Aw C’Mon/No You C’Mon, and its follow-up Damaged, Wagner suffered a malicious cyst, and ended up having part of his jaw removed. As if that wasn’t enough medical misery for one year, Wagner soon afterward survived a serious cancer scare. So you can understand the mournful mood that hangs over this album (though of course that is really nothing new for Lambchop’s music). Damaged is quiet, delicate, saturated with strings, and pervasively weary-sounding. There are traces of the country influences that were central to earlier Lambchop albums, and Wagner’s vocal tone sounds distinctly American, and Southern still. From an album packed with beautifully crafted songs, it’s hard to pick highlights, but several songs stand out. “The Rise and Fall of the Letter P” is a delicately hushed, sleepy song that’s bolstered by breathy low brass instruments alongside steely guitar and plucked acoustic. “I Would Have Waited Here All Day” is a tad brighter speed-wise, loping along on a shuffling groove underpinned by undulating brass chords. On the whole, Damaged is a narcoleptic gem of an album–distinctively downbeat, and bleakly beautiful.