Album : Nixon by Lambchop
Review : NME, 1 March 2000
Author : Gavin Martin

On this, their fifth and greatest album, Kurt Wagner‘s ever-expanding 17-piece country soul outfit aren’t fucking around. Absorbing and magnifying the territory explored on its immediate predecessors, ‘What Another Man Spills’ and ‘Thriller‘, ‘Nixon’ is by any criteria an astonishing work.

Awash with delirious dream-bound strings, sanctifying gospel choirs, beautiful brass flourishes, pedal steels, Rhodes organ and, of course, open-end wrenches, it’s been called an alt-country ‘Pet Sounds’, Wagner (a Nashville-based floor-layer by day, genius by night) steering his inspired collective into areas of boundless musical wonder while keeping a sure and tender grasp on the emotional strings that tie these songs together.

Given the sheer sonorous delight of the Lambchop sound, the ‘Pet Sounds’ comparison is understandable if ultimately misleading. Once the magical opener ‘The Old Gold Shoe‘ – strewn with images of loss and abundance – takes flight you are borne aloft and thereafter free to explore a cosmic American ideal that would do Brian Wilson or Gram Parsons, or anyone proud. But as a singer and songwriter, Wagner operates at a remove from both his contemporaries and predecessors, his gentle imprecations, salty asides and off-kilter musings delivered in a raw falsetto that often sounds like a ravaged, confessional and mischievous ghost.

What Wagner has been working towards in a series of records that began with the tentative ‘I Hope You’re Sitting Down’ in 1994, is a music that illuminates the odd victories and tragedies of commonplace experience. Though it’s gilded with gentle rhapsodies, lush embellishments and thrilling expositions, ‘Nixon’ achieves its aims without ever resorting to overkill. Even in ‘Up With People’ – a joyous ode to friendship, procreation and dreams – the ‘Chop delight in caressing odd contrasts and eking out awkward emotional crevices.

Wagner’s mastery of the twisted love lyric comes to some sort of peak on ‘The Distance From Her To There’, summoning up a clumsy seduction with the line, “It’s not a theatre kiss/More like a railway piss”. So what, you may ask, has this all got to do with the man who was possibly the most mendacious US president of the last century? Ostensibly not much, the album was recorded before the cover image and the title were decided upon. Even so, the lyrics come complete with a Nixon reading list, the implication is that as someone who came of age in Tricky Dick’s era, Wagner can’t help but work in the dark shadow left by his legacy.

Mapping out a musical Utopia where Glen Campbell‘s golden era meets primetime Philadelphia soul and the dark gossamer funk of the late Curtis Mayfield is a constant presence, Wagner’s method even on the glowering looming despair of the magnificent ‘The Petrified Florist’ is a life-affirming riposte to the fear, division and paranoia Nixon fostered.

Fate and history can serve judgment on Richard Milhouse’s legacy – right now ‘Nixon’ is a swooning wonder, covered in glory. 9/10

mp3 : Lambchop – The Old Gold Shoe
mp3 : Lambchop – Up With People
mp3 : Lambchop – The Petrified Florist

JC adds :  Lambchop had passed me by until the release of Nixon.  Gavin Martin wasn’t the only one who sang its praises and I bought it, partly on the back of all the positive words, and partly as the man who owned the indie record store in Glasgow told me it was a great listen.  And it is….to the extent that everything that came before (as I went out and purchased the back catalogue) wasn’t quite as good, and everything that has come since hasn’t quite matched Nixon’s consistent brilliance.




Please don’t run away or be scared. This is actually an excellent piece of music.

mp3 : Lambchop – Up With People (edit)

It is a shortened version of one of the very fine tracks to be found on the LP Nixon released in 2000.

Lambchop has always had a fluid line-up from record to record dating back to their 1994 debut but always featuring the unique vocal talents of Kurt Wagner. Now I’m happy to admit that Kurt wont be everyone’s cup of tea – Mrs V for one cannot stand his singing rather cruelly likening when he goes high-pitched to Tiny Tim – but I’m a fan.

The two extra tracks on the CD single feature a remix by trip-hop/ambient duo Zero 7 and a cover of a track by the late Vic Chesnutt, an artist much admired by Michael Stipe.

mp3 : Lambchop – Up With People (Zero 7 remix)
mp3 : Lambchop – Miss Prissy

While Up With People is a fine enough single, I dont think its the best track on the LP. Have a listen to this:-

mp3 : Lambchop – Grumpus



I’m delighted that another regular reader and occasional commentator has taken up the opportunity to make a contribution to the series.  Jules who is behind the blog Music from Magazines gives us his thoughts on the wonderful world of Lambchop:-


Where does one start with a Lambchop imaginary album? not “I sucked my bosses dick” lyrically fine but a tad naive musically.



Lets start with what else… an overture. written as part of score to played live to accompany the film Sunrise (1927). The film was directed by F.W. Murnau probably more famous for Nosferatu (1922).

mp3 : Lambchop – Sunrise


Many years ago I worked in a pub with a CD juke box, was able to burn CDs and had the keys to said juke box (lucky customers) but one track that got a loads of plays at end of an evening was this cracking cover of Fredrick Knights southern soul classic from 1972.

mp3 : Lambchop – I’ve Been Lonely For So Long


NIXON is such an amazing album it could be the dream LAMBCHOP compilation on its own, but that would be a tad silly and defeat the whole point of this excercise. On a classy holiday in Teneriffe I had Nixon and The Mountain by Steve Earle on my CD walkman all the time, The number that wormed its way in though was The Old Gold Shoe.

To be honest dont often understand the lyrics, but they are funny, last line “think of me as the fifth Beatle”. Also some nice Lambchop trademark background sounds.

mp3 : Lambchop – The Old Gold Shoe


This is from Hank, its what Lambchop is about, if you dont like this number then I hate to be the bringer of bad news but a lot of there stuff is very similar.

Me, I think its sodding brilliant both lyricly and musicly.

mp3 : Lambchop – I’m A Stranger Here


Absolutly gourgeous song to end side 1.

Starts with the usual Kurt Wagner lyrics that confuse people like me (Love? Loss? Longing? buggered if I know) and then morphs into a lovely lazy skank.

mp3 : Lambchop – Is A Woman



A review of this track (from the Prepared album) if my memory serves me right, said it was like a punk number amongst the quite; well they had a point, it comes in with a bang naming the total shitbag scumsucking filth that was Nathan Bedford Forrest. moves on to more Wagner rants and then turns into a love song at the end….I think.

p.s. and name checks Jim Nabors (more later)

mp3 : Lambchop – The Decline of Country and Western Civilization


Realesed an album called “How I Quit Smoking” then later released a song with the line ” Im smoking again”. Patches might have helped.

Nonetheless this is great pop song.

mp3 : Lambchop – Cigaretiquette


More old school lambchop

More to the the point I think I understand the words.

“Sylvester’s three on a tin roof
Kathy Dick and the burden of proof
If you’re lookin’ at me you’re lookin’ at the truth
Under the same moon

An incense burned and a rusty comb
A name and an address of a retirement home
Two neighborhood dogs who won’t leave me alone
Under the same moon

A dollar and a donut lie under the bed
A woman with a basket and a shaved head
Pressed between the pages of the book we both read
Under the same moon

A powerful thirst and a crying shame
An old rugged cross and a lip that is lame
Two lovers that remember the first time they came
Under the same moon

A dress in the closet and some shoes on the rack
A harmonica and a hat that is black
If you leave this town you ain’t never comin’ back
Under the same moon

A car alarm and a bottle that breaks
A receptionist and a creek full of snakes
Stay up all night if that’s what it takes
Under the same moon”

The Boo Hoo bits at the end have thrown me a bit though.

mp3 : Lambchop – Under The Same Moon


Because if you have got this far you will expect nothing less.

mp3 : Lambchop – Up With People (live)


Not one to quote The ToryGraph regulary but I was there, and its true….

“The power to still a beery crowd with beauty”

“Backed by just string quartet and bassist, with a beautiful song for his wife. Wherever he may be creatively, he had the power to still a room and touch everyone in it very deeply.”   Andrew Perry

And yes it is a truly Beautiful song.

And yes I was truly Beery.

And yes I shed a tear.

mp3 : Lambchop – Theone

p.s. the line “Gomer Pyle was just a man” refers to a TV character played by (you guessed it) Jim Nabors.





Brian over at Linear Track Lives! is one of the most consistently inventive and entertaining bloggers out there.  He is currently in the middle of a rundown of his Top 100 songs from the 90s and he’s already delivered some cracking surprises including this at #58:-

“There is something about the way frontman Kurt Wagner delivers words in that Tennessee drawl that takes me back to listening to my relatives spinning yarns at reunions back in the sticks of Illinois as a youngin’. Everything was just a little slower and a little simpler. Even when Wagner’s tales are filled with melancholy, I still find the music comforting. Perhaps I also like Lambchop because I think this would have been a group my father and I might have actually agreed on.

As for today’s pick, this is the second and last song on the countdown with the dreaded f-dash-dash-dash word (as Ralphie would say) in the title. If you only know Lambchop’s more recent work, you might find the tempo of this one quite surprising. “Your Fucking Sunny Day” most assuredly doesn’t sound like it was sung from a rocking chair. It comes from the band’s third album, ‘Thriller.’ That’s a little self-deprecating humor from a group that produced two earlier albums with few sales to show for it. On the off-chance this song might have received some airplay, there was a clean version called “Your Sucking Funny Day,” which is a smile, but I don’t think Merge or anyone else needed to worry too much about such things.

mp3 : Lambchop – Your Fucking Sunny Day

It’s also one of my favourite Lambchop songs – they were a band I was going to include in last week’s series in as much that I have quite a few of their albums but nowhere near the whole back catalogue. I’m particularly fond of the LP Nixon which was released in 2000 and is packed with great tunes with this being the track that would be edited back by a minute and released as a single. The album version is superior:-

mp3 : Lambchop – Up With People

Two years later the band followed up Nixon with Is A Woman with initial copies of the CD having a bonus disc that included a hugely inspired and genius cover version:-

mp3 : Lambchop – This Corrosion

For those of you who may not be familiar with the original, well it is considered by many to be THE greatest goth anthem of all time.  All 11 minutes of it.  Get those shoulders shaking:-

mp3 : Sisters of Mercy – This Corrosion (12″ version)

And finally, the Lambchop take on a punk classic:-

mp3 : Lambchop – (Get A) Grip (On Yourself)

Enjoy y’all.