A band straight out of Manchester with no apparent links to the “Madchester” scene: impossible surely? Well, Lamb’s music certainly bears no resemblance to The Stone Roses. There’s no brawn, no swagger, not even much hype and, as I learnt at the Carling Weekend 2003, a broad and dedicated fan base. I chose to see Metallica over Lamb and that might well have been a mistake.
As soon as you venture beyond the eerie intro to Darkness one thing hits you. That is the understated power of Lou Rhodes’ voice. She doesn’t even break into song here but the progressive funked-up drum and bass makes this a wise move. It’s rare that a five-minute track can be classed as an intro but for every rule there seems to be an exception.
The sheer strength of Rhodes’ voice makes it hard to empathise with the lyrics on Stronger – “Without this love where will I be?” But this clearly isn’t a cheesy album mourning lost loves. The benefits of a decent drum machine begin to kick in on Stronger and are evident throughout Between Darkness And Wonder.
Anyone who’s ventured into music production knows it’s not easy to switch between loops seamlessly but Sugar 5 achieves just that. It really is incredible, moving from dance (ish) to hardcore drum and bass apparently without batting an eyelid.
Angelica demonstrates utter diversity with a light piano backing and a Rob D style overdub; there’s even a brief venture into scratching. Rather unnervingly it’s an instrumental – Lamb wisely proving they aren’t overly dependent on their vocalist. The range of influences continues on Clouds Clear with a majestic acoustic guitar riff. If Shipwrecked returns to our screens then it wouldn’t be surprising if the producers decided to change the theme tune to this.
Sun briefly changes the mood and direction of the album and there’s a tenuous link to the Sugababes here. It’s upbeat and pop by nature, but the laughter at the end of the song hints that Lamb are just messing about. And there’s no harm done because the track is pretty damn good!
As Between Darkness And Wonder reaches its conclusion the mood becomes slightly melancholy, which merely plays to the strengths of Lamb. Amazing vocals and fantastic beats, but never straying too far from the drum and bass that Lamb seem most comfortable with. Hearts And Flowers is a fitting finale for the album – the bass alone makes it worth the listen.
There is something subtle and almost disturbing about Lamb, but it can’t be pinpointed which makes the group so intriguing. Just when you think the album might be stumbling to an end That Thing (Open Up) makes you think again. But in Andy Barlow’s own words: “Thinking is totally overrated. Feeling the music is better.”