Released in 1995 on the City Slang
label, How I Quit Smoking
's second album, a heavily country influenced record in contrast to their more famous Nixon
Their debut album, a year previously, was I Hope You're Sitting Down (aka Jack's Tulips). Long, lo-fi, rambling and esoteric, the record had laid the foundations for Lambchop's early country-miserabilist style, and provided one of their best songs in the suicidal "Soaky in the Pooper". With How I Quit Smoking, the essence of their first album was sharpened in focus and cut down to a more manageable 50 minutes. It was also sweetened by a rich - almost glossy - 1970s-esque production by John Mock. The result is a captivating array of deceptively low-key stories of everyday life, joy and sadness.
The opener, "For Which We Are Truly Thankful", is a good an example as any of the record's style. Over a backdrop of acoustic guitars and elegant string arrangements, the band's protagonist Kurt Wagner tells of the "race for a place at the bottom of the pile" which characterises human behaviour. Elsewhere on the album he covers human malice ("To whom can I speak today? / The brothers they are evil" from "The Man Who Loved Beer") and hopelessness ("All the rest is done / All you really can do is just sit up and start a brand new day" from "Life's Little Tragedy").
Things get more upbeat with the near-epic "We Never Argue" and the quiet glow of "All Smiles and Mariachi", but throughout there is a sense of self-doubt and quiet melancholy, accentuated by Wagner's distinctive brand of sing-speak ("I don't speak well, I mumble / To Life's Little Tragedy"). Despite the rustic choice of instruments, and general country theme, the record has an air of modernity in its self-concious approach that suggests an influence from indie-rock. (In fact the song "Garf" is a humorous criticism of Garth Brooks.)
And the whole thing comes to an end with the astonishingly intimate love song "Theöne" ("the one") and its heartbreaking instrumental reprise "Again".
The tracklisting is as follows (total run-time 52:53 mins):
- For Which We Are Truly Thankful (2:58)
- The Man Who Loved Beer (2:47)
- The Militant (3:34)
- We Never Argue (4:15)
- Life's Little Tragedy (4:16)
- Suzieju (4:24)
- All Smiles and Mariachi (3:30)
- The Scary Caroler (4:44)
- Smuckers (4:33)
- The Militant (2:56)
- Garf (4:30)
- Your Life as a Sequel (4:18)
- Theöne (4:53)
- Again (1:10)
Thirteen members of the band appear on the record, including John Mock, who provided the string arrangement (itself performed by five further musicians), and a man named C. Scott Chase, the musical lynchpin of the band with his performance on "open-end wrenches, lacquer thinner can".
Having perfected country-miserabilism, Lambchop were now headed for other pastures. Their next album, Thriller (1997), was an unconvincing venture into post-rock to which they didn't return. The subsequent two, particularly Nixon (2000), incorporated a heavy soul element into their sound, as well as upping the mood, and How I Quit Smoking is the last Lambchop record which could justifiably be called country.