Lambchop

Lambchop

Tools in the Dryer

Merge

Exciting! Did you ever think Lambchop could rock out? (The opening track, “Nine,” their first A-side for Merge, is a bone-shaker.) After listening to Lambchop only post-What Another Man Spills (their fourth album) and not making any great effort to seek out earlier stuff, Tools in the Dryer makes me want to scour used CD bins and cassette dumpsters for their full catalogue. That would be a difficult task though, considering that they have a near-Guided By Voices-sized oeuvre.

Tools in the Dryer offers a strange snapshot of Lambchop, spanning the years 1987 to 2000. From trippy lounge-country like Vic Chesnutt’s “Miss Prissy,” to oddball, non sequitur remixes like “Up With People,” this is a wide-ranging, yet fairly distended collection. This CD is not particularly for the uninitiated. It may strike those only vaguely familiar with Lambchop as frustratingly opaque. Yet, consider the historical context! While other bands in the college rock South where picking up the pieces of Big Star and R.E.M., cobbling together unselfconsciously generic, ’90s alt-rock, Lambchop was onto something truly remarkable. No small feat. Tools in the Dryer, if nothing else, is a fascinating document of that process. Some of the most pleasantly surprising tracks on here are the pre-mood country numbers. “All Over the World” (1987), “Style Monkeys” (1987), and “Flowers of Memory” (1990) have that magical home-fi quality, paralleling GBV on Devil Between My Toes or Same Place the Fly Got Smashed. (The similarities between these two are truly interesting, though both eventually moved in very different directions. American studies kids, here’s your final paper in the making.) Given the sheer volume of tracks that could have been included, it’s a wonder that there are duds on it. Overall, however, the disc carries itself and is highly recommendable to fans.

Merge Records, PO Box 1235, Chapel Hill, NC 27514; http://www.mergerecords.com

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