n the past, Lambchop has been known as somewhat of a novelty. It was notuncommon to hear them referred to as ‘that alt-country band with threepercussionists’, as if their most redeemable feature was their size. ... Isa Woman finds the group downplaying their ‘big band’ label, for the mostpart the band stays near a whisper. When I say ‘whisper’, I don’t necessarilymean ‘weak’. Sure, the concept of a guy crooning faux-lounge to a woozy musicalbackdrop doesn’t seem like the most masculine art form, let’s just call it‘expressive’.
I’m sure the average listener would not even know that Lambchop containsfourteen people by simply listening to the album. Most of the time, one canonly pick certain sounds out of the mix, the piano in the title track forexample. This is not to say that certain instruments are featured moreprominently than others are, tones often bleed together, creating a singularsound out of a seemingly fragmented group. The inclusion of horns may augmentthe feeling a guitar line has, or the direction of the song. Lambchop hasalways pulled this off beautifully, but ... Is a Woman seems socomprehensive in this respect.
Lead singer (though it seems more like rambling than singing) Kurt Wagner takesa more immediate role in this album. His voice is the possible exception to thegenerally united tone, Wagner’s grumble is way up front, guiding us througheveryday scenarios with a warped view. Kurt Wagner delivers these lines withsuch captivating sincerity that we cannot help but focus. The lines ‘The lastthought that you think today / has already happened / the link between profoundand pain / covers you like Sherwin – Williams’ from "The New Cobweb Summer"convey a bit of the surreal wordplay Wagner employs throughout.
Though many of the songs on the album are rather slow in tempo, there areseveral exceptions to the generally lazy feel. "I Can Hardly Spell My Name"introduces a peppy female choir to the mix, with sunny na na na’s increasing themystique and charm considerably. The title track, one of the more sleepy songsthrough its introduction, turns into a sunny reggae bounce near its end.
Ultimately the album suffers from a lack of drive, it is too involved to be apiece of ambient music and too lazy to be ‘rock’ music, it kind of lingers inthe middle. If you don’t mind a slower tempo, ... Is a Woman isworth picking up, it is a great foray into larger-group textures.
Reviewed by: Tyler Martin
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01