After the genial but largely forgettable guitar pop of 1998's Motel Swim, Chapel Hill's Doleful Lions turned downright freaky. 1999's The Rats Are Coming! The Werewolves Are Here! showcased singer/songwriter Jonathan Scott's growing fascination with horror films and the paranormal, as well as an increased fondness for '70s Krautrock and other progressive music forms; 2000's Song Cyclops, Vol. 1 was even weirder, a mostly acoustic set recorded by Scott on his own that approaches Roky Erickson territory in its obsession with demons and monsters. 2002's Out Like a Lamb returns to the full-band format and ratchets down the lyrical weirdness a notch or two, with wondrous results. Their most layered and richest-sounding album, Out Like a Lamb synthesizes the starkness of Song Cyclops with the sound-for-sound's-sake neo-psychedelia of The Rats Are Coming, resulting in songs like "Surfside Motel," which builds slowly from a simple acoustic guitar and vocal into a mixture of Phil Spector-like tympani rolls and Neu!-style synthesizer drones, or "Dear Lazarus," which recalls the acoustic songs on The Beatles [White Album]. The songs are still on the odd side -- "1723" is a stirring, almost martial waltz about the founding of freemasonry, and the title track is filled with bizarre extraneous noises underneath an otherwise lilting pop song -- but Out Like a Lamb is an inviting and often fascinating album.
AllMusic Review by Stewart Mason