I feel like I’m being stalked. Not by a person, but by a sound, specifically that of Ambulance ltd. All it took was one listen of their eponymous EP, and suddenly I’m waking up to the ringing of guitars in my head and being lulled to sleep by charming lyrics.
The relationship had a rocky start. Having just listened to the EP, I quickly concluded Ambulance (the Ltd. is apparently “for the lawyers”) was yet another Brooklyn-based band playing a ’60s pop/’70s rock blend, and blew it off as being just as forgettable as most others doing the same thing. And at first, it was forgotten. But by the end of the day, stray notes found their way into my head. Soon after, I found Ambulance’s tunes to be inescapable. And with that I understood that Ambulance has a staying power that lasts longer than its 22-minute EP.
The bond evolved, and revisiting the album, released by TVT Records, proved that what I had originally passed off as banal was really a silent killer, slowly growing on me. Superficially, this quintet offers the trite-tight-jeans-and-tighter-T-shirts look that can pull in the crowds. But beyond looks, Ambulance manages to be all its contemporaries, such as Longwave, aspire to be. You won’t realize it immediately, but Ambulance has a keen ability to, in the most painless way possible, get under your skin and stay there.
Part of the band’s charm can be seen in vocalist Marcus Congleton, whose voice, like the album itself, doesn’t stand out during first listens. But a close listen will reveal minute inflections and breathy lines powerful enough to make both girls and boys swoon. Album opener “Stay Where You Are,” with its breezy strums and purred vocals, has Congleton taking incriminating lines — “I might not be the one that’s true/ but I’m trying don’t you know” — and turning them into coos for forgiveness.
While seemingly out of place compared to the other ’60s Brit-pop influenced tracks, “Primitive (The Way I Treat You)” is the standout track on the album. Congleton, once again, is the propelling force behind the track’s success, altering his voice from a vocal stroke to a vocal strut. His nonchalant speak/sing manner oozes with cool, the perfectly skittish keyboard lines from Andrew Haskell give this track a nice dose of ’70s smoky club rock, and randomly placed snaps add a bit of spontaneity to the track.
The occasional awkward shift or slightly grating orchestration is what makes Ambulance good but not great; “Heavy Lifting” clumsily shifts from ringing guitars to wannabe psych-rock, ruining any momentum created in the beginning of the song. But while Ambulance will not be able to evade to inevitable “derivative” labels that follow success, there (thankfully) won’t be any “Saviors of” superlatives for Ambulance, as the music is too unassuming and gentle to be anything more. And that’s what makes Ambulance so tricky; its calm demeanor is a façade, covering its stalking tendencies, and listening to them is the type of pleasure that follows you around for days.