Once again I’ve been struck by a bolt of lightning in musical form; Ambulance LTD are the Hephaestus that made the bolt that struck me. I’ve known this band for a few years simply as Ambulance but the fates intervened and the band was forced to add the LTD to their name. Despite the name change Ambulance LTD still maintained musical magic. The album, LP, is a fantastic mix of old psychedelic rock and new indie flavor.
The disc opens with “Yoga Means Union,” an instrumental track that slowly builds suspense in a wonderland of layers of guitars, bass, and drums. The guitars seem to mournfully squeal as the drums maintain a steady stream of intensity while becoming the one force that takes the song to less gloomy textures. That is until the sounds join together to produce a theme destined to be used for car commercials sometime in the near future. Following up the opener is the band’s first single “Primitive (The Way I Treat You),” which has this distinctly old rock feel to it. That feel is accentuated by lead singer Marcus Congleton’s talk-sing monotonous voice during the verses and his voice’s swift change into a somewhat whiny yet dreamy croon. The vocal intensity is matched by an addicting guitar riff and a single piano key being played over and over again. The piano key is very consistent in the background and manages to keep the song together as the guitars, drums and bass pound away in the foreground. Compared with the rest of the album this song is the heaviest and darkest, and not as lyrically based; more musical. The rest of the tracks have a lighter, dream-like feel to them while this track is set in the darkest stone. This is not to say it doesn’t fit in with the rest of the album because it does. Despite the heaviness of the track it still manages to stay true to the album’s overall morose yet hopeful demeanor.
“Ophelia” has one of the best yearning choruses I’ve heard in quite some time; “I hate the one thing I need / I just don’t trust you now baby” is sung with such a truthful downtrodden yearn that it cannot be refused. I spent months on end listening to this part and relishing in the complete beauty of that one line. Congleton’s voice meanders around creating this calm yet hypnotic vibe. On “Stay Tuned” the boys bring fun and lightness to a song about leaving; “I’ll come back some time soon /and while I’m away stay tuned,” these lyrics are sung in such a bright and breezy manner that it brought a sense of giddiness to my heart. It is honestly hard to maintain a cool demeanor when all of this thirteen-year-old girl giddiness flows through your body. Despite the fact that I wanted to squeal and jump around every time I heard the chorus, the song still had this ultra glum and lush sound to it.
I can honestly say that this is an album worthy of the ‘random’ button. Every song manages to have some catchy, great moment, and this alone makes LP an album deserving of your hard earned money. Buy it for the addictive, enriching “Heavy Lifting,” for the quiet splendor of “Michigan,” or the perfect for summer, laid back sound of “Young Urban;” but whatever you do, make sure you take the trip with Ambulance LTD.
Crossed Keys – Saviors
Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds
Philadelphia’s Crossed Keys are an interesting intersection between melodic hardcore and punk, taking an earnest approach to the sound that made its way from the underground in the late 90s and early 2000s. This relatively new outfit is the result of Kid Dynamite and Samiam in a blender- in the best way possible. The Kid Dynamite influence may be a given since Crossed Eyes features KD’s drummer Dave Wagenschutz, but the band’s pedigree also includes members of bands like Zolof the Rock & Roll Destroyer and The Curse, all backing the melancholic vocal work of frontman Joshua Alvarez (Halo of Snakes). So while Crossed Keys are somewhat new, its members have been cutting their teeth within their respective circles for years, and their new EP Saviors shows the work of well-seasoned musicians finding new energy in old sounds.
Saviors is backboned by the furious urgency and energy that Kid Dynamite showed through their history, but while Jason Shevchuk’s vocals were beautifully abrasive, Alvarez takes a more restrained, wistful approach to singing. Songs like the opening “Times of Grace” are musically up-tempo percussions and razor-sharp guitars, but are buoyed by Alvarez’s more melodic vocals. His vocals rest at a good place between Samiam’s Jason Beebout and that NYHC tone exhibited by bands like Token Entry and Grey Area. In songs like “R.J.A” and the closing title track, Crossed Keys find more success with their brand of blistering speed meets harmony- slowing down only for the kind of melancholic punk that made Samiam a noted name. While much of Saviors is built on pace, it wasn’t always this way for the band. In fact, their 2017 EP, I’m Just Happy That You’re Here, leans closer to Samiam than it does to Kid Dynamite (the song “Jeff Pelly vs. The Empire” is particularly fantastic), so there’s been an uptick of urgency with Saviors.
For fans of any of the aforementioned bands here, there is plenty to like with Crossed Keys and plenty to like in Saviors. It’s succinct, to the point, but filled with ample reflection and exploration that gives the EP depth and resonance. Any band that has found influence from Kid Dynamite is most certainly OK by us (this site is named after a KD song after all), but Crossed Keys does more than just tip their cap. This one’s a really good one, and worth your time.
Every last time: Revisiting Gameface’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”
A glorious sound of a time gone by
Southern California’s Gameface were always a band that seemed perfect just below the cusp. Their brand of pop-tinged punk was somewhere in between the melancholy driven emo of the early 1990s to what would become of radio-friendly punk bands evolving from the Jimmy Eat Worlds of the… world.
I loved this band. It was songs like “My Star” and “When You’ve Had Enough” that captured my attention. They didn’t fit in with the punk explosion of the mid-90s and had more melodic chops than those that remained in the underground with bands like Quicksand and Texas is the Reason (the latter being the most musically similar).
To this day, I count their track “How Far Is Goodbye?” as one I can listen to on any given day and still feel the same way about it as I did years ago. It’s a glorious sound of a time gone by, and Jeff Caudill, who has been the backbone of their songwriting since the beginning, has still got the chops his ilk can only dream of. There’s a tinge of melancholy that conjures up a certain sadness, a scene in a movie where the protagonist is making their exit into the distance as the scene closes. Something about the song, the sentiment, and the lyrics that always reminds of driving away while looking at the rear view mirror.
Five years ago Gameface released a new album, Now Is What Matters, an album that perfectly encapsulated their ability to write with emotion, melody, and magnetism that only a select few seem to possess. I interviewed frontman Jeff Caudill before the album came out to chat about the band, an interview I think still holds up. Caudill has been busy since then with a lot of solo material, while the band themselves have been releasing music sporadically (mostly singles) since 2014.
While their catalog is deep, there’s one song I keep coming back to, and that’s “How Far Is Goodbye?”. Originally released on the split 10″ vinyl with Errortype: 11 in 2000, the song received an update in 2018, which you can hear below.
Gameface photo from Gameface facebook page.