Lambchop is the self-proclaimed “Most F-ed up country band” in Nashville, so it makes sense that baritone-voiced lead singer Kurt Wagner would lead off the band’s latest release with that same expletive. Over a quietly pleasant swirl of keys and strings, Wagner’s choice of vocabulary is jarring and may prompt surprised snickering from those hearing Lambchop’s music for the first time. Longtime fans though, know the story. Wagner and company have always operated on a different plane than others, making many beautiful albums worth of strange bedfellows, marrying rock, country, folk, and orchestral sounds into a conglomerate of tunes so distinct and intriguing that classification seems a pointless exercise. Mr. M is no exception as again the traits that make Lambchop one of a kind are on full display.
The songs are thematically linked by Wagner’s existential musings on the commonly mundane events of life. One minute he’s wondering how to retrieve cups from the top shelf of a kitchen cabinet, the next minute he’s comparing cooking methods with an old friend over the phone. Elsewhere in the album, Wagner offers odes to “used software”, calls himself a “big prick”, and talks about how he “used to know your girlfriend, back when you had a girlfriend”. In Wagner’s world, the sky and the wind is described in metaphor, conversations are recalled and dismissed, and love is that distant feeling still waiting somewhere out in the abyss to be captured. On the surface, the lyrics catch attention as so many memorable phrases are spun, listeners can’t help but stop and take notice. However, the beauty of Lambchop has always lied in the mesmerizing nature of their songcraft. The lyrics aren’t everything; the band members are all ace musicians and the way they wrap their various instruments (acoustic guitars, piano, violin, brush drums, keys, horns, and strings) together makes for a spellbinding listen. It’s all a beautiful soundtrack to the weird world of Mr. Wagner. You may be startled by the story, but you’ll keep coming back for the complete package.