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Steven Lambke - Volcano Volcano Music Album Reviews

Steven Lambke - Volcano Volcano Music Album Reviews
On his seventh solo album, the Constantines member trades straight-ahead country rock for joyful, junk-shop irreverence, reveling in his peculiarities while offering an unmistakably homey atmosphere.

Over his two decades in Canada’s indie-rock trenches, Steven Lambke has often thrived in supporting roles. As the second singer-guitarist for soul-punk rabble rousers the Constantines, he chipped in with a song or two per record to give Bry Webb’s moonstruck howl a rest. And ever since that band entered its semi-permanent state of hiatus at the end of the 2000s, Lambke has devoted much of his energies to running the excellent Toronto imprint You’ve Changed Records, which he co-founded with roots-rock shapeshifter Daniel Romano. Beyond acting as the faucet for Romano’s never-ending flow of material, You’ve Changed has introduced artists like the Weather Station and Nap Eyes to wider audiences, while using its platform to make Canadian indie rock less of a straight white boys’ club, releasing albums by queer grunge-pop duo Partner, country spiritualist Fiver, and Indigenous avant-rock artists like Leanne Betasamosake Simpson and ​​Status/Non-Status. (He also brought a similarly conscientious curatorial expertise to his former role as the Creative Director of Sackville, New Brunswick’s annual indie love-in, Sappyfest.)

But amid all his behind-the-scenes gruntwork, Lambke has never stopped making music; since the mid-2000s, he’s released six solo albums (among other projects), initially under the Baby Eagle banner and more recently under his own name. As the Constantines grew into their Neil Young phase on their later records, it became clear that Lambke had a quieter, more introspective side, and his earliest solo efforts functioned as reservoirs for a growing repertoire of mellow campfire ballads and laid-back country shuffles. Over the years, as the Cons faded further from view, he got more comfortable with turning up the volume a few notches, yet he remained beholden to a ragged ’n’ rustic rock tradition clearly rooted in Neil’s “Ditch Trilogy” days. But Lambke’s quizzical lyrics and inherent peculiarities have always kept him from settling into a familiar singer-songwriter archetype. As the Constantines member responsible for that band’s most agitated, serene, and cosmic songs, Lambke has a mercurial voice that contorts itself in surprising ways, veering between comforting, plainspoken whispers; a dazed, Dylanesque twang; and an ebullient, high-pitched creakiness that can make him sound like an elderly 10-year-old boy, childlike and wizened in equal measure.

Where 2019’s Dark Blue drifted toward straight-ahead country rock, Lambke’s seventh album, Volcano Volcano, takes a U-turn from folk-festival respectability and retreats into joyful, junk-shop irreverence. The album was created with assistance from Romano, his bassist David Nardi, Merge Records artist Carson McHone, and Cons keyboardist Will Kidman, but it’s a group effort that has the feel of a hermetic home-recording experiment—probably because Lambke took the bed tracks and slathered on the sort of cheap supplementary instrumentation (sleigh bells, shakers, tambourines) that gets handed out at kindergarten circle time. Listening to the record feels like a visit to an old neglected family cottage—it’s covered in cobwebs, dead bugs are caked across the window screens, and the front-porch floorboards are rotting away, but once you get inside and light up the fireplace, it feels like home.

Lambke spends much of Volcano Volcano pondering natural phenomena, finding strength and inspiration even in their most frightening forms. On the quietly ascendant title track, volcanoes are far from cataclysmic; instead, they offer a potent metaphor for a different kind of uprising, where power in society flows from the bottom up and, as Lambke optimistically sings, “the world is reordered from below.” Throughout the album, he looks upon some of the planet’s creepiest critters—spiders, bats, crabs—with a sense of awe and envy, as they inhabit the sort of oblivious utopia we can only dream of, unencumbered by human folly and ignorance. “Lucky stars, a golden grommet/Vomit in the garden bucket/Look out, snakes have always shouted/And there’s spiders too!” he sings atop the sleigh-belled sway of “April, May, and June,” reframing a messy backyard scene as a veritable springtime Christmas carol.

At times, Lambke’s hand-shaken instrumentation sounds louder in the mix than his voice or guitar, lending these humble, homespun tunes a cinematic dimension: On the twangy psychedelic serenade “Truth Marks,” the relentless rattle of maracas doubles as a nighttime chorus of crickets. But their presence also evokes the old Constantines custom of distributing tambourines to fans in the crowd, and it highlights the participatory quality that unites Lambke’s myriad musical endeavors, where anyone with a dollar-store noisemaker can be part of the band. Nowhere is that communal spirit more deeply felt than on the album’s ecstatic, tambourine-battered peak, “Every Lover Knows.” Channeling the spirit of some gospel-gilded classic-rock nugget from 1971, Lambke works himself up into a mad preacherman lather as he cries, “The truth is/Every truth is tested/By the world until it’s busted, twisted, or frayed/As every lover knows.” Far from an admission of defeat, “Every Lover Knows” is a battle cry for romantic radicals, a don’t-let-the-bastards-get-you-down anthem that doubles as a warning to the haters: This volcano is ready to blow.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

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Steven Lambke - Volcano Volcano Music Album Reviews Steven Lambke - Volcano Volcano Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on Tuesday, May 17, 2022 Rating: 5

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