For Lambchop singer, Kurt Wagner, “green doesn’t matter when you’re blue.” The fame-seeking dreamers of Nashville are “aesthetically corrupt,” and songs are perpetuated as visual aids throughout the lulls of solo shows.
Mixing the bizarre with the chimerical OH (Ohio) continues in the genre-defying efforts of an outfit most popularly described as alt-country. Lambchop is a stalwart of the chill-out music scene, and Wagner’s dulcet tones have pervaded over many an after-club wind-down session. The longevity of his fame is still something, which mystifies the reluctant front man: “I always feel strange talking about this thing I do, I often wonder who finds what I have to say even remotely interesting.” Lambchop’s worldwide fan base seems to disagree, with the band’s frequent line-up fluctuations doing little to stem the enthusiasm accumulated through 15 years of recording.
The band’s hometown of Nashville exists in the popular imagination as a hot bed of rhythmic talents, an opinion that betrays the millions of failed careers in American music’s answer to Hollywood. Conversely, these musical pursuits bred in Wagner a cynicism of his home town where “everybody played guitar, everybody was getting into music, I just found this whole thing pretty self-obsessed and weird.”
Ironically, it took Wagner leaving Nashville in favour of Memphis, leaving music in favour of art, to begin his prolific career of song writing, and to appreciate his Nashville roots: “I think it was quite forming in a way, we started to consider that we were all from Nashville, which was a curious thing because most people come to Nashville from somewhere else and kind of pursue country music, and we started to consider that as part of our conceptual idea, we were reflecting a side of Nashville.”
His stint at art school enabled Wagner to embrace a variety of artistic forms, and he is always keen to showcase the talents of friends and associates on Lambchop’s album cover art. OH (Ohio) continues this tradition, emblazoned as it is with the work of Wagner’s old professor. Gig goers can expect this visual musician, to play around with the idea of what is a performance in solo shows. Hanging the physical remnants of past pieces on a specially-fashioned washing line is just one way to manifest “my typically confounding self,” as Wagner reconciles himself to solo performances. After numerous line up fluctuations, Lambchop has finally settled into a more steadfast outfit, touring throughout the UK after Wagner’s solo dates and, despite more frequent forays into his own works, Wagner maintains the band’s collective. “I’ve always seen music as more of a collective endeavour, but I’m just starting to discover the solo endeavour of music, as with painting.”
Lambchop’s latest album occupies familiar territory, showcasing an artist becoming more comfortable in his own efforts while simultaneously embracing the original cacophony of the band’s trademark youthful playfulness. As always with Lambchop, the lyrics lurch from surreal to nostalgic, and tracks fuse into one musical whole, just as the band members do behind Wagner’s enigmatic talents.
OH (Ohio) is out now on City Slang. www.lambchop.net.