5 September 2016

The Amazing - Ambulance

The Amazing are a Swedish band who feature Reine Fiske, who plays with Dungen, and Christoffer Gunrup, who played in Granada and with Anna Järvinen. Fredrik Swahn, Alexis Benson, and drummer Moussa Fadera.  They released their self-titled debut in 2009, followed by the 'Wait for a Light to Come EP', followed by two further studio albums - 'Gentle Stream' and 'Picture You'.  'Ambulance' is their fourth album in total and has been categorised as an album that will require more listens than 'Picture You', it is also been said by The Amazing that they have dispensed with the traditional verse/chorus structure for their songs and they are following their own trail.  Whilst I have not heard the band, it is always interesting to find out what is happening in places that are far away from the places I walk; it gives a different perspective and it is always a great chance to find something exciting and new.  Now before I go any further, I have to say that calling your band The Amazing is a very ballsy move to say the least and before you hear a note, the audience is going to be a little weary to say the least.  But sometimes it can be the sort of name that people will flock to just to find out if the band is as good as their name.  To quote Nirvana and their big hit - Here we are now, entertain us......

The first song on the album is also the title track - "Ambulance".  The sound of the band is akin to Midlake around the time that they released 'The Trials of Van Occupanther'.  It has a darkness to the sound, it is a harrowing sound that will not have many casual fans.  It does feel as if there is something sinister behind the sound and it is not comfortable to still listening to this for too long; this is not in a bad way as if the sound is delicate and you can sense the craft that went into this.  But it feels as if the song is a burden that is being released and it is hard on the soul, something is stirring here and I am not sure how it will turn out. "Divide" keeps up the psychedelic trip that would not be out of place on a Brian Jones Town Massacre album, there is a dream-like nature to this song and you have a feeling that everything is not quite real.  It feels as if you have stepped into the middle of a plot that has been going on for a while and when you leave there are still loose ends that have not been tied up (a bit like life really), this unfinished feeling stays with you once it has finished and playing it over and over just makes the feeling of being lost grow and start to take root in your soul.  "Blair Drager" is next and that uneasy feeling is an ever present on this number.  Again, I am reminded of another artist at this point and it is John Grant that comes to mind, but also the drum beat which sounds reminiscent of the style from the D'Angelo & The Vanguard 'Black Messiah' album.  It has a film noir quality and that sinister & cynical mood just hangs over you like a sword of Damocles is hanging over the listener with this number.  "Tracks" is the halfway point of the song and to be honest, it is not doing anything really different from the first few songs of the album.  It feels like it has taken a step back after the brave step that was "Blair Drager" and went back to the safe (in a given sense of the word safe) sanctuary of the first two songs and it sort of ends up feeling like a little bit of a filler at this juncture - a well-played filler, but a filler track none the less.

The second half of the album starts with "Floating" and the trick of this band is slowly being shown to be a one of a kind trick.  This is a well-crafted song, it is a song that I am sure will be well received in certain quarters; yet it is very similar to other songs on the album, or to be more precise, it is similar to other styles on the album and the pursuit of sounding different has made it sound very similar.  The next song is the longest on the album, which is called "Through City Lights".   Thankfully, this song is an improvement to the last two songs, I say an improvement - it is monumentally better than the last two songs.  It does not shake the foundations of song writing; it does not make a new musical tower that will make people question what they have been listening to beforehand.  What we have here is a beautifully performed song, with an interesting hook, a gentle soul and the odd drop of the word fuck every now and then.  I really like this one, it is a familiar sound to this number and that is something I will address later.  The penultimate song is called "Moments Like These" starts with a fast finger tapping to the begin with, then it goes into standard Neo-Folk, after that it twists into a slow and strange chorus and then it starts to repeat the cycle once more.  At this point, it is a brave attempt at something different and it sort of sounds alright, but nothing is grabbing me here and it is just like a train passing me by on a track.  It might have an interesting story, but it is not heading in my direction.  Ending the album is "Perfect Day for Shrimp" with an acoustic strumming that feels at the beginning of the song that it is in a hurry to be elsewhere.  However, it is a song that is swimming in the territory of Bat for Lashes, but once again it is a few years behind and whilst it is once again performed very well, it is nothing that is engaging or out of the known realm of music. 

The problem here is that the band have not doing anything ground breaking, different or even subtly different.  When you say you are going to change how songs are structured, change the rule book and forage your own course, then you better be able to back that up and not just sound like the best of Mojo from the last four years.  In trying to sell themselves as something different, they have given themselves a millstone for their neck and it is very hard to ignore.  But even when you take that out of the equation and look at the album in the cold light of day, it is a very familiar sounding record that does nothing different to what has been performed by other acts, it is a style that has also been given a little more spirit and freedom than on here.  Sadly, there is nothing new, different or (sadly) special about this album and it is a rather average album at best with one stand out moment, two decent songs and more filler than required.

5 out of ten - It could have been a bit better

Top track - Through City Lights

You can purchase Ambulance on Amazon here.

You can visit The Amazing website here.

You can follow the activities of The Amazing on Facebook here.

You can stream Ambulance on Spotify here.

You can stream Ambulance on Deezer here.

You can stream Ambulance on Tidal here.

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