Lullaby for the Working Class and Frogpond

Saturday, Nov. 20; Side Door

Nov 17, 1999 at 4:00 am
It's tough to tell what's accomplished through the omission of all apostrophes from the lyric booklet of Lullaby for the Working Class' most recent album, Song (Bar None), other than to annoy the anal-retentive grammarians among us and cause us to begin a write-up of the band with such a query, but there they aren't, deleted from every single word (except, curiously, for one or two -- where's the consistency?), an affected and wholly unnecessary little stunt that only serves to draw attention to inconsequential details of Lullaby for the Working Class instead of the music's organic beauty. In fact, it's best to ignore the written lyrics altogether, because you'll only get mired in them -- they're as often pretentious as they are inspired. Instead, simply toss out the book and treat the words as sounds, as one of the many textures comprised by their velvet tone, and begin again.

Hailing from Lincoln, Neb., Lullaby swells from four-piece to mini-symphony; in their spare form, the band's sound stumbles, but when they grow to include cello, pedal steel, vibraphone, trombone and flugelhorn, among dozens of other instruments on Song, their songs float and wander. Because of this musical liquidity, verses flow into choruses and then into hooks without any obvious rhythmic punctuation, and the result is simply beautiful.

The members of Lullaby combine elements of folk, country, classical, soundtrack music and rock to create something both antiquated and sparklingly fresh. They've been compared to British dramaticists the Tindersticks; that's a nice starting point, but Lullaby aren't nearly as lush. Rather, think of a Midwestern American Music Club, with all the wordiness and overwrought drama such a comparison implies, and move into a sort of down-home version of said theatrics. Think of maybe a fancy-pants, master's-in-lit version of A Prairie Home Companion and you're getting warmer, but not nearly as warm as the band gets when they've discovered their perfect pleasure point, equal parts goosedown and barbed wire.