Surrendering from the first minute to a an elegant (and piano-based) chamber pop, Lambchop’s new album distances itself even a little further, if possible, from that sort of alt-country that characterised the early works of Kurt Wagner (and we are thinking of that far-off “How I Quit Smoking”), which always aspired to break new ground in old Americana. He gave it a silky nostalgia without a past, gaining in depth little by little, twisting around in their so-called simplicity, until it became the band’s last album, “OH (Ohio),” a pop compendium with lounge aspirations that expanded the Lambchop sound to corners barely explored by Wagner until then, having brought together no less than seven musicians to bring about the metamorphosis. Well. As we said in the beginning, “Mr. M” goes even further, entering, like Neil Hannon in the last two releases from The Divine Comedy, into the terrain of the musical, a Dickens-like musical ( “Mr. Met” is practically a piece written to be performed on a stage by an actor who is bemoaning his bad luck), and it is presented as the polished version of an ardently downtrodden The Wave Pictures (in the splendid “2B2” and “Nice without Mercy”). He plays on an abandoned piano in a party hall (with Wagner interpreting that ode to sleepless nights and the last breath of a loser that is “If Not I’ll Just Die”), at reinterpreting autumnal dystopian half times ( “Gone Tomorrow”) and at hiding his desperation (in the delicious “Buttons”).
Dreamy, and at times, ghostly (or the infinite sadness of the very Antony “Kind Of”), the new Wagner renders homage to his roots (after all, he does have Nashville and the cowboy hat in his blood) so subtly that it is barely perceptible (he hides the country trot behind an enviable wall of sound in the instrumental “Gar”), and in doing so, he takes the invention to amazing places (practically fabulous) like “Betty’s Overture” or the little “Never My Love.” Highly recommendable.