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This New York-based quartet makes swoony, atmospheric, layered rock that's primarily interested in guitar-based interplay and subtle dynamics. Their pleasant tunes have supple melodies, a solid Velvets-derived groove, and pretty yet weathered vocals that occasionally sound like Sam Prekop from The Sea and Cake. They have too much cojones, not to mention vaguely bluesy chops, to be considered third-generation "shoegazers." Ambulance Ltd. do what any decent indie-rock band does on their first album (see Stereolab, Built to Spill, Luna): they play around with their influences, mixing, matching, and seeing what sounds best. This album is like watching a bunch of kids going crazy trying on fancy clothes at the department store, as they gleefully mix and match the Lilys, the Kinks, Versus, the Stones, and Apples in Stereo. This is not meant as disparagement; there's a real joy in watching a band come into its own. It's a safe bet Ambulance Ltd. will already be there by the time you read this. --Mike McGonigal
Top customer reviews
I first bought thier New English ep and I was blown away by it. These days I dont expect much from music but this band delivered. I suppose I would group this as being somewhat retro but I really cant compare it to any former bands except the Velvet Underground which they do a fine cover of the Ocean on a hidden track at the end. They have a sound all thier own with just the right balance of instruments without ever overpowering. I wouldnt call these songs simple but they deliver uniqueness without going too far over. I'm just a little upset that these guys havent been promoted the way they should be. Give them a little more airplay and I can guarentee that you will be hearing these guys all over. It's that good. A hidden gem.
There is a motherlode of well calculated hooks that draw the listener in, but Ambulance, like their hometown peers the Strokes, stay far enough left of center on the artistic Bell Curve to avoid sell-out backlash from bohemian critics. What Ambulance lacks is the well defined line-of-sight that bands, like the Strokes have crafted into an artistic vision. This will emerge as Ambulance Ltd. gains experience as a performing unit. Ambulance will have the inevitable rendezvous with destiny and this talented band will soon be under contract to a major record label, barring any number of unforseen disasters that confront an embryonic rock band. Ambulance has all the earmarks of the rare pedigree of a great rock bands, but greater bands have stumbled for lack of artistic direction. It's...uh, like...the vision thing, ya know?
In all fairness to Ambulance, I confess that their CD is among my favorite releases, in an otherwise moribund year (2004) for "alternative" or independent music releases. I struggled mightly over giving "Ambulance Ltd" a 4 or 5 star rating and when I realized this band is probably capable of eclipsing the music of this first release with their next album, I gave it 4 stars. My illogical logic is based upon my unreasonably high expectations Ambulance Ltd's future, and in the best of all worlds, I could give it the 4.8 stars it deserves.
Finally I notice a couple of negative reviewers insinuated that those who write a positive review of this album are probably associated with the band. For them, here's my personal statement of disclosure (Journalism 101): I have am not and have never been associated with Ambulance or their record label, either in a business or personal relationship.
Ambulance, to put it in basic terms are a New York band with a difference. Rather than conforming to the omni-present New York hip-hop scene, or joining the abundance of outlandish grunge groups that swarm venues across New York; Ambulance have decided to do things their own way. Their debut album mixes the mellow, upbeat harmonies of bands such as the coral, the velvet underground and to a lesser extent the thrills, with darker more melancholy sounds. This peculiar mixture or literary prowess is echoed throughout the album, with certain tracks choosing to stay far more tuneful (anecdote) whilst other tracks (primitive) hold a much deeper tone; however both are equally as effective as one another.
From the beautifully crafted opening instrumental through to the finger clicking, foot tapping final track (Young Urban) this album is packed to the rafters with character. Even the more poppy, linear tracks such as anecdote retain a sense of intellect which resonates more so in Ophelia, a track with perpetual depth. The real gems in this album are Primitive (the way I treat you), Ophelia and the peculiar Swim, which manages to bring some amplitude to an altogether calm album.
What really sets ambulance apart from other bands (both alternative and indie) is their attitude towards their music. They aren't desperate to make it big, nor are they writing music to impress people, they are simply writing music because they love it. This relaxed attitude is personified in the track `Primitive (the way I treat you)', from the crunch of the bite on a potato chip to the soft clicking of the fingers which lingers throughout the track, primitive is a relaxed work of art; although crafted so masterfully that you find yourself feeling like you know the song less than halfway through, and this ability to effortlessly write quality music makes ambulance a real wonder to behold.
Getting hold of their material isn't the easiest job in the world, but take my word for it, it is most definitely worth it.