Ambulance Ltd. has impeccable timing. The easy-breezy indie pop of the band's eponymous summer 2003 EP was the perfect soundtrack for a lazy July afternoon. This time around, their debut full-length, LP, has been released in the spring. But once again, Ambulance Ltd. has its music fit your mood perfectly.
But something here is slightly unsettling, and it's not just linked to Seasonal Affective Disorder. Rather than take the year between EP and LP releases to mature or transform its sound, Ambulance Ltd.'s growth curve has remained fairly stagnant. For other bands, especially ones that -- like Ambulance Ltd. -- have been showered with praise and hype, this is career near-suicide; fail to show any musical maturity and you'll fail to hold onto the fans. But because their music is meant for those idle, sluggish days, you can't help but allow the band to be as lazy as you.
The first sign that Ambulance Ltd. isn't looking to challenge its image just yet is revealed during LP's "hidden" track, a cover of Velvet Underground's "Ocean." Rather than completely revamp the song, Ambulance Ltd. goes with a hometown band and a song that doesn't pose much of a sonic challenge for them, and in the process opts out of a chance to prove the extent of its abilities.
The second sign of Ambulance Ltd.'s dormancy is that they included four of the five tracks from the EP. It's standard for a band to have crossover tracks, but the songs are often refined or developed as to display the band's improvement. And the differences between the songs on the EP and those on the LP are barely perceptible. The snaps in "Primitive" are in the exact same spots on LP as they are in Ambulance Ltd., and despite its newly-added neo-psychedelic opening, the majority of "Stay Where You Are" has literally stayed where it is.
What salvages the album isn't that the songs are strong -- and they are -- but that the album is meant for days when you too want to stay where you are. The band's mentality becomes your mentality when listening to LP. It doesn't matter if they've improved since their last recording session or not; you'll enjoy Ambulance Ltd.'s satisfying blend of pop, shoe-gazer and space rock. Ambulance Ltd. can be Spiritualized or Steely Dan, My Bloody Valentine or the Beatles, and are often all four at once.
New tracks including "Anecdote," with its slow buildup during the chorus, and "Michigan," which has softly rolling verses and a nonchalant quality, add to this easy-going take on life. Older tracks add to this overwhelming sense of contentment, as exposed by singer/guitarist Marcus Congleton's slow pronunciation of lyrics on "Primitive" and "Young Urban." But just as an afternoon of doing nothing eventually gets boring, Ambulance Ltd. can only get away with this stagnancy for so long. All you can do is waste the day away listening to the album and hoping their next release is set for winter.
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