Lambchop and the Failure of the Ten-Year Rule

Ask me a year ago and I would have confidently prattled on about Toad’s First Law of Musical Embarrassment: that the most fashionable music is that which is twenty years old, and the most excruciatingly embarrassing stuff to be reminded of is the stuff you listened to ten years ago.

If you look at the recent revival of grungey, garage rock which so explicitly harks back to the American indie of the early nineties, that seems to bear out, particularly when you think how reviled nineties music was during the eighties revival in the early noughties.

Go back about ten years from today and it has to be said that you can certainly look back in some horror at the dismal garbage of Turin Brakes and Starsailor on one hand and the nonsense of Keane and Kasabian on the other, never mind every single horrible Strokes- or Libs-a-like shitfest who still to this day won’t just finally fuck off once and for all.

Having said that, whilst a few years ago I couldn’t personally guess what styles would spearhead the nineties revival which I assumed was statistically inevitable, I find myself currently looking very fondly at all sorts of music I was listening to in the early noughties – precisely the era I should be most distancing myself from, if the First Law was correct.

I’ve said in a few reviews recently that a certain aspect of my music taste seems to be channelling Song, by Toad 2004 at the moment – harkening back to the days when ‘alt-country’ was a term as annoying to bands as ‘indie’ is today.

This came up in particular this weekend as we had Eef Barzelay playing in Edinburgh. Barzelay used to be in Clem Snide, a band I first discovered in something like 2001 when I was working in Cambridge. Due to that being a relatively intense time in my life, strongly geographically defined by the 18 months in Cambridge and the four months in Wiltshire post-redundancy, I have a lot of very strong and very specific associations with the music I was listening to back then.

If I think about Clem Snide, Eels, Grandaddy, Howe Gelb, The Willard Grant Conspiracy, Neko Case and Lambchop, whilst they may not be all that similar, there’s definitely a common thread running between them, and they would certainly form a strong basis for any really positive nostalgia for that time in music – it certainly seems clearer to me than when I tried to make the same guesses about the early nineties, anyway.

Anyhow, I bought Nixon by Lambchop on vinyl the other day, and have listened to it quite a few times since. While The Willard Grant Conspiracy and perhaps Howe Gelb sounded a little closer to traditional American folk, and Neko Case had a lush soulfulness to her music, there was always something unsettlingly strange about Lambchop.

In some cases you can confuse them with soporific country-tinged coffee table music – they were even almost pulled into the dreaded chillout zone – whether it was a lyric or a sense of musical unease, you were rarely all that far away from something a bit weird, although this is probably their prettiest album overall.

Maybe the noughties weren’t all about the Kaiser Chiefs and fucking Hard-Fi after all. And maybe the ten-year rule won’t apply in this case, as I seem to be having my own little revival already, ten years too early.