Ambulance LTD’s transformative sound is hard to explain. Some of their tracks hinge on the ambient sound of dream pop, while others pulse and grind through a haze of distortion. Though their style is difficult to categorize, the music of the New York-based band remains natural. On April 2, Ambulance LTD will be filling the Middle East Downstairs with comfortable pop music and sharp, tongue-in-cheek lyrics-and although the music retains a straightforward charm, the history of the band is far from simplistic.
The band was originally conceived in 2000 by guitarists Michael Di Liberto and Dave Longstreth, but both members were quickly replaced with Marcus Congleton and Benji Lysaght. The original founders of Ambulance LTD, therefore, are no longer involved with the project they originally started. But the band had little exposure when the co-founders left it.
It’s strange to see a band with such a cluttered history excel as well as Ambulance LTD (after all, the list of former members has more names on it than the list of current members). Perhaps part of what helps keep the current members coming back is their rich musical backgrounds, which are as diverse as the band’s music itself. Congleton was raised in Oregon, where, as a child, he was taught blues chords by his uncle. Darren Beckett, the band’s drummer, is from Belfast, Ireland, and his father was a professional drummer as well. When asked about the band’s ever-shifting style, Congleton told Gamestar.com that a lot of their music “has ’70s undertones to it.not so much the punk side, but the indulgent side that punk was rebelling against.” But, he admits, he “already did punk time in high school.”
The song “Anecdote” (off the band’s self-titled LP from 2004) starts off with a pleasant bounce and a simple guitar riff that appears to be lighter than air. The sound is reminiscent of a dreamy springtime afternoon and has all of the charm of a quiet, reflective day in the sun. The song sounds simple enough in its style, but the lyrics are darker than expected. What begins as a wispy trip into delirium soon becomes a brooding account of aching heartbreak-the kind of heartbreak that blindsides you into absolute numbness.
“You’d like to believe that all that love is free/Someone like you will never be lonely or get the blues/But darlin’ it’s not true.”
The lightheartedness of the music in “Anecdote” is hardly jarring when accompanying the darker lyrics. Instead, the song has a strange familiarity that creeps along quietly and infectiously hooking you into its charm. Despite the band’s cheery simplicity, their history is slightly less confusing than trying to classify Ambulance LTD’s sound.
Most of the band’s music is similar in structure to “Anecdote.” The tracks are rarely dark, and even the ones that touch on heartache do so with stoicism, as if to dismiss the negativity that sparked the writing of the song in the first place. Their style is eclectic, and the only thing that ties one grunge rock anthem to another poppy, dreamlike farce is the peppy observance present in the lyrics. Because the Ambulance LTD’s sound changes more often than the members of the band, a trip to the Middle East on April 2 may prove to be an enlightening experience.