The Amazing

Partisan, 2016

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


I’m on record in recent reviews as being critical of electronic, moody, serious dream-pop with breathy male vocals, songs that float rather than sting with an interchangeable sound, the murmured #firstworldproblem tunes made by skinny white guys with wool caps and beards who probably haven’t swung a sledgehammer a day in their life.

For the record, I have…maybe not in a while, since I now work in a laboratory. But I spent a summer erecting huge canvas tents for outdoor festivals, which required lifting incredibly heavy bags and tables and swinging a sledge to pound in the metal stakes that kept the tents up. It was hot outdoor work that required classic rock radio; had I put on Ambulance at the job site, the guys would have thrown a chair at my head. Put on AC/DC and get back to work, asshole.

But now I’m 33 and this overdone genre has some appeal when properly applied. Personally, Tame Impala and bands like that are just my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 dull to my way of thinking. You need some drama, some strong melody, some emotion in the music (and perhaps the lyrics, if you’re so inclined) to capture the listener. It’s atmospheric and swathed in shades of blue and gray, but Ambulance manages to hit the head and the heart and leave an impression. More electro-dream-pop records like this may salvage the genre after all.

Both “Ambulance” and “Divide” are sophisticated sunset anthems with intimate guitar work and murmured, close-up vocals, not terribly articulate but not needing to be, as the voice is merely another instrument. The intentional acoustic-guitar elegance of the record brings to mind late-period R.E.M., especially on “Divide,” while the roiling drum pattern of “Ambulance” keeps the listener invested, not allowing the melody to settle and fade as it easily could do.

 “Blair Drager” goes one better by introducing a bouncy pop rhythm and decorating it with a cool two-note guitar riff that gives the song some jazz and very light funk influence, then closing with an extended jam. “Tracks” has a Dark Side Of The Moon vibe (the horn from “Us And Them,” the slow ‘n’ steady drumming, a melancholy you can’t shake), and succeeds in creating an atmosphere that is enveloping and hazy.

These first four songs comprise the first half of the record and, perhaps inevitably, the second half can’t keep up. “Floating,” “Perfect Day For Shrimp,” and “Through City Lights” are slow and sparse, perhaps fine for the Paper Towns soundtrack but paling in comparison to the better songs here. However, the folk picking of “Moments Like These” brings an energy to what would otherwise be a mediocre song; you feel like you’ve heard it before, but in the moment you don’t really care.

Credit also goes to the band for recording this with minimal rehearsal in a one-room studio. They knew what they wanted to say this time around. Shame that the band falls prey to their history (and the genre history) of floating off into the ether, creating murmured muddled psych-folk pieces with little to offer, on the second half. But that first half is well worth your time and proves the Amazing can transcend  their roots and their genre to create something lasting, interesting, and beautiful. Not sledgehammer-worthy, maybe, but that’s a young man’s game anyway.

Rating: B-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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