Review by Nick Argyriou.
LAMBCHOP – FLOTUS (Merge/Inertia)
The almost 60-year-old frontman of Nashville alt-country/indie unit Lambchop, Kurt Wagner, doesn’t want to remain rooted in the past on the band’s 12th record. Over the course of a 70-minute production, FLOTUS (an acronym representing both ‘For Love Often Turns Us Still’ and ‘First Lady of the United States’) has two tracks (the first and last) that take up half-an-hour of that runtime which is avant-garde in itself for a Lambchop release.
Add the vocoder-heavy delivery from Wagner, dabbled instrumentation and electronic effects that snake through the still country-esque narratives, and we have a band progressing, reinventing and defying expectations. Where opener ‘In Care of 8675309’ is stuttered percussion and an ode to the “house of cancer”; the derelict asbestos-ridded property next door to Wagner and his wife’s property, ‘Directions to the Can’ has a bit of Gil Scott-Heron about it with Wagner’s hushed-yet-rumbling vocal talking its way through twinkling keys and programmed beats.
Having made no secret that he wanted FLOTUS to blend hip-hop with country music, Wagner took note of the work of Kendrick Lamar and Kanye West, plus the sounds of his neighbourhood. He was even influenced by seeing a Shabazz Palaces Nashville gig where the Seattle rap act where all over their TC-Helicon VoiceLive 2.
Wagner’s wife, and the Chairman of the Tennessee Democratic Party, Mary Mancini, features on the album sleeve posing with Barack Obama and was another key force in Wagner achieving this new-wave Lambchop. So he’s not afraid of change is our man, nor messing with the norm and taking the band’s sound to relatively uncharted sonic waters, and we’re all the better for it.