CD Review of OH (Ohio) by Lambchop
Recommended if you like
The Court & Spark, The National,
Nick Cave
Label
Merge
Lambchop: OH (Ohio)

Reviewed by Lee Zimmerman

L
ambchop is one confounding combo. A fluid ensemble that can expand into a mini-orchestra or compress into a basic acoustic ensemble, it operates under the auspices of Kurt Wagner, the band’s erstwhile mainstay, singer, songwriter and musical mastermind. In the dozen years or so that they’ve been musically active, the group’s reflected this shape-shifting mentality with each and every album, via outings that have delved into alt-country, chamber pop, pseudo soul, mood pieces and experimental forays that are so bewildering as to defy description.

In recent times, Lambchop has seemingly tugged at their own parameters, with the result that in 2004, they actually released two albums simultaneously – Aw C’mon and its appropriate retort, No, You C’mon. Their last effort, Damaged, helped expand their following and further engaged the critics, setting the stage for OH (Ohio), an album that seems to have very little to do with the state for which it’s named and everything to do with furthering Wagner and company’s tangled trajectory.

Indeed, Wagner’s penchant for proffering heavy-lidded melodies draped in overcast ambience is evident throughout, expressed in a set that’s paced midway between a lilt and lethargy. Fortunately though, those low-lit ambitions yield moments of glorious incandescence, songs that shimmer and shine with a subtle, affecting glow. Things commence at a tentative pace, first song “Ohio” establishing an unhurried agenda where quiet contemplation mingles with indiscriminant musings (“Green doesn’t matter when you’re blue”). The tunes that follow take time to gain traction, and even an impressive pair of pretty ballads -- “Slipped Dissolved and Loosed” and “I’m Thinking of a Number (Between 1 and 2)” -- meander along without reaching resolution.

Consequently OH (Ohio) scales its first crest with “National Talk Like a Pirate Day,” a song that shakes off the cobwebs and climbs towards a crescendo. Earnest and anthemic, it radiates with a gravitas that belies the seemingly aimless drift that tempers the album overall. Four tracks on, “Please Rise” rallies for another slow build, a clarion call to action that’s both assured and affecting. From there the disc winds its way towards a slow sprawling conclusion, seemingly unobtrusive yet mesmerizing all the same.

In fact, that’s the strength Lambchop purveys, a sense of serenity infused with pensive rumination. Lacking any obvious hooks, it’s not an easy proposition, especially for the uninitiated. Ultimately though, time spent engaged will reap its rewards.

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