About the artist
In 1992, Posterchild -- now consisting of Wagner, Trovillion, guitarist Bill Killbrew, clarinetist Jonathan Marx, multi-instrumentalist Scott C. Chase, drummer Steve Goodhue, and percussionist Allen Lowery -- released An Open Fresca + A Moist Towlette, a split single with friends Crop Circle Hoax. The 7" brought the group to the attention of entertainment lawyer George Regis, who issued cease-and-desist orders on behalf of his clients, the noise pop band Poster Children. After rejecting the names REN, Pinnacles of Cream, and Turd Goes Back, the band settled on Lambchop, added vocalist/saxophonist Deanna Varagona, steel guitarist Paul Niehaus, and organist John Delworth, and signed to Merge to release the 1993 single "Nine." Their debut LP, I Hope You're Sitting Down (aka Jack's Tulips), followed a year later. In many ways, this album would be the most conventional Lambchop record. Its Nashville origins and torch-and-twang ambience would saddle the band with the increasingly erroneous alt-country tag, although Wagner's Lou Reed-like vocals and bizarre narrative conceits -- in particular the fan-favorite "Soaky in the Pooper," a vivid recounting of a bad LSD trip -- immediately signaled their obvious distance from the likes of Uncle Tupelo or the Jayhawks.
The lovely How I Quit Smoking appeared in 1996 (although on the subsequent "Cigaretiquette" single, Wagner would proudly announce, "I'm smoking again"). Recorded live the previous Independence Day, the Hank EP followed later in 1996. Marking the debut of drummer Paul Burch, the disc represented the apotheosis of Lambchop's Billy Sherrill-inspired phase, its lush production evoking the Nashville sound so popular three decades earlier, but now completely passé among Music City's chart superstars. 1997's Thriller proved a major turning point; highlighted by the Muscle Shoals soul of "Your Fucking Sunny Day" and including no fewer than three songs penned by East River Pipe's F.M. Cornog, this sprawling, difficult album introduced the uncompromising eclecticism that would dominate Lambchop's work from here on out. The follow-up, 1998's What Another Man Spills, upped the ante further; for remarkably soulful covers of Curtis Mayfield's "Love Song (Give Me Your Love)" and Frederick Knight's "I've Been Lonely for So Long," Wagner's baritone drawl even gave way to a Prince-like falsetto. That same year, the group also backed Vic Chesnutt on his album The Salesman and Bernadette.
Lambchop's fifth full-length, Nixon, appeared in the spring of 2000. Supposedly a concept album exploring the presidency of the infamous Tricky Dick, Wagner even included a bibliography in the liner notes -- a direct connection to the Watergate scandal remains unidentified. Though still criminally unknown at home, Lambchop enjoyed a much more substantial following overseas, and on May 13, 2000, they appeared at the London Royal Festival Hall; the gig was recorded and made available at U.K. appearances that fall as the Queens Royal Trimma limited-edition EP. (A 2001 European tour yielded the Treasure Chest of the Enemy EP.) The 2001 collection Tools in the Dryer assembled many of Lambchop's scattered singles, compilation tracks, and remixes.
After recording the purposefully spare Is a Woman in 2002, Wagner and company moved on to their most ambitious project yet -- two simultaneously released albums, Aw C'Mon and No, You C'Mon, in which Lambchop was returned to full power and joined by a lush string section. The next year the musically experimental EP CoLAB came out, followed in the spring of 2006 by The Decline of Country & Western Civilization, Pt. 2: The Woodwind Years, an eclectic collection of tracks that had never appeared before on Lambchop records, including one new song, "Gettysburg Address," and a record of all new material called Damaged later that summer. 2008 saw the release of the typically graceful and elegant OH (Ohio), followed in early 2012 by the group's 11th full-length outing, the austere Mr. M., which offered up 11 lush, string-laden meditations on love and loss, all of which were dedicated to the late Vic Chesnutt.
Jason Ankeny, Rovi