Thirty Pounds of Bone - Method
Chris Tapley 20/12/2010
There's a track on Method, the second album from multi instrumentalist Johnny Lamb aka Thirty Pounds of Bone, called 'How We Applaud The Unhappiness of the Songwriter'. This sentiment about sums up Lamb's take on the often trite and cliché ridden niche of the downtrodden singer songwriter, which is to say that he revels in it and exhibits a self-awareness which makes the familiarity of some of these songs more comforting than it is frustrating. It is very much in the vein of a traditional folk album too, all built around dusty plucked arrangements with skeletal string and accordion backing up lurid tales of alcohol and regret. We've all heard that before then, but with Lamb's wry wit steering us it doesn't seem to matter quite so much.
This is immediately apparent on opener 'Crack Shandy In the Harbour', a rather melancholy tune which was inspired by Lamb's time spent “working for a racist café owner where narcotics anonymous had their meetings”, a rather desolate picture which he paints with touching sentimentality and humour. It's this palpable sincerity which is one of the album's strong points, the bare refractive guitars and pained enquiry of "Where's my shoes?/All gone" on 'All For Me Grogg' is surprisingly affecting only for it to be quickly followed by "Where's my heart?" to even more devastating effect. The whistling fuzz which forms the base of that track is symptomatic of the albums more sonically esoteric moments, in which Lamb excels and somewhat distances himself from the tag of standard acoustic warbler. Perhaps most notably so
on 'The Fishery' where his soaring vocals are shrouded amidst swells of feedback which errs more towards shoegaze influences or the opening wails of brass on 'Island's Ode To The Itinerant' which sadly fail to reappear. These are certainly the more exciting moments where the instrumentation comes in to equally sharp focus as Lamb's vocals, offering a far more rounded experience.
The vocals do manage to hold attention though and there's certainly a recurring lyrical theme of alcohol consumption which gives the impression of Lamb as a troubled artist; again though his earnest wit manages to steer this away from seeming like a gauche stereotype. The most potent example of this persona comes through in his desire to drink Whyte & Mackay on 'A Lesson In Talking', or elsewhere as he discusses
spending all of his money on drinking gin with some girl or confessions of not eating much. So yes, there might not be much in the way of originality on Method and that's certainly detrimental to it's overall appeal, but as folk albums go it does that very well. It's a rather low-key atmosphere which Lamb emits, one which is designed it seems for settling down by yourself with a glass of something and giving a little
round of applause for your own unhappiness.