No You Cmon

Indie-rock-country-soul orchestra Lambchop suffers some concept-bloat on its two new albums, but at least one of the discs bears the weight. Aw Cmon is a cohesive collection of brisk, poppy songs in the accessible mode of the band's 2000 breakthrough Nixon, while the album-length B-side No You Cmon compiles stylistically mismatched songs from the same sessions. The tracks for both emerged from a burst of disciplined creativity by bandleader Kurt Wagner, who wrote a song a day for weeks at a time. The experiment has the desired effect of moving Wagner away from the deliberate, excessively complicated piecework of Lambchop's last album, Is A Woman. That effect is felt most noticeably on the eclectic No You Cmon, which encompasses both the band's gentle country mode and its forceful rock-out stylings, though aside from moments of grace like "There's Still Time," the record still sounds too slight for the non-devout. The track selection for the superior Aw Cmon was influenced by Lambchop's recent performance as the backing band for a screening of F.W. Murnau's silent classic Sunrise, and the album evokes that film's emotional arc, inasmuch as most of the songs are about making the best of broken relationships. Aw Cmon's essence lies in the two-minute "Four Pounds In Two Days," which marries a conversational lyric to reverb-drenched guitars and '70s cop-show strings that pack the band's lushness and lightness into one concentrated dose. Even the more complex songs, like "Each Time I Bring It Up It Seems To Bring You Down," are played with the intention of moving listeners along. At times, it's disconcerting to hear how much Aw Cmon mimics Nixon's amiability, from the disco strings to the cover art, and it's hard to deny the faintly sickly aroma of attempted populism surrounding the record. Aw Cmon is definitely more enjoyable than Is A Woman, but it's also not as challenging or as ultimately rewarding. Still, its flow gains in impact and peaks at the close. Stripped of the heavy conceptual clothes, Aw Cmon finds itself in fragments of inspired sound, which convey Wagner's belief that art is the sum of daily interactions at their richest.

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