Ambulance LTD


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Ambulance LTD's full-length debut is like a guided tour through the last 20 years of guitar rock. The Brooklyn quartet have a pretty firm grip on their history; more importantly, they are able to kick out the lessons with pop hooks and great walls of guitars that make learning fun. The meandering instrumental "Yoga Means Union" kicks off the record and gives you a pretty good idea what stops you are going to make along the way. Equal parts space rock, shoegaze, and new wave revival, the song is the weakest on the album only because it doesn't have vocals, one of the strong points of Ambulance LTD's sound. The highlights come fast and furious afterward, however: "Primitive (The Way I Treat You)" is a singsongy groover that sounds kind of like late-'80s Wire or even the Chills circa Soft Bomb; "Heavy Lifting" is a swirling blast of Technicolor guitar waves, pounding drums, and breezy melody; "Ophelia" is a perfect melding of dusty soft rock and widescreen shoegaze sensibility that recalls Starflyer 59's epic Leave Here a Stranger; "Swim" is a gentle wall-of-guitars ballad with lovely vocal harmonies that nearly measure up to those of the unjustly forgotten Chapterhouse. Where Ambulance LTD really succeed and start to find their own voice is when they leave their influences behind and craft catchy pop tunes like the peppy "Anecdote," featuring Marcus Congelton's sweet, unhurried vocals (which tend to get lost amongst all the guitars elsewhere); the moody ballad "Michigan"; the glittery "Stay Tuned"; and the sweet country-rocker with vibraphone, "Young Urban." These songs help deflect any charges of the band being mere imitators. Their songcraft and energetic performance, and the uncluttered and solid production, also help. The only downside to the record is that four of the songs were already featured on the band's debut EP from 2003 ("Stay Where You Are," "Primitive [The Way I Treat You]," "Heavy Lifting," and "Young Urban"). Well, that and the nice but unnecessary cover of the Velvet Underground's "Ocean" as a hidden bonus track. Don't worry too much; those are very minor problems that don't bring the record down. It is one of the better guitar pop records of 2004 (and recent memory), and positions Ambulance LTD as a band to watch in the future. The more of their own voice they find, the better they are going to be.

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