It's rough being shoegazers in the 21st century. The genre's key bands -- Jesus and Mary Chain, Ride, My Bloody Valentine -- are long dead. But Ambulance LTD is reviving a genre that nobody cared about the first time around, and they're doing it on their own terms.
LP isn't special. It doesn't surpass any of the aforementioned bands in either talent or energy. What Ambulance LTD does have, though, is a strong pop sensibility, a trait that was rarely demonstrated by their predecessors. There are moments, especially in tracks like "Anecdote" and "Stay Where You Are," that the band channels a pop deity that is a little bit Beatles, a little bit Beach Boys, a little bit New Order, and a little bit Monkees.
Enough for the compliments, though. I needed to listen to LP about seven times. The first time I put in the disc, I was bored silly. The music reminded me of a bizarre marriage between Ride and Mazzy Star, and its energy wasn't very compelling. Of course, not all music is supposed to be exciting, so I kept listening in hopes of discovering its secrets.
There are secrets here, but they're mundane. It's kind of like learning that your neighbor's deep dark secret is that he likes to read. It's neat, but unless you're fantasizing about a literary threeway, you probably don't care.
There are songs on LP that move in their own subtly frantic way. On "Yoga Means Union" and "Stay Where You Are," guitarist Benji Lysaght stretches out, but the rest of the time, he's constrained to the occasional countermelody. Vocalist Marcus Congleton balances stereotypical shoegazer drones with poppy melodies, but his voice isn't very interesting. The rhythm section never does anything that wasn't already done by a jillion mopey '80s bands. LP is not particularly special unless you're a fan of this kind of music (in which case you should absolutely pick it up), but it's a nice listen every once in a while.
The artwork is simple, but it represents the music rather well. The abstract photos won't be up everyone's alley, but they're interesting images that reflect a mood more than a message. (I assume the choice not to include lyrics is for the same reason of mood over message.) The lack of liner notes builds on that theme, but the inclusion of credits was obviously an obligatory move. Next time, maybe they'll have the balls to leave out the credits and truly be minimalists.
Listen if you like: JAMC, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Serena Maneesh.
If it were food, it'd be: Grits. They're good if you like them; otherwise it's kind of like eating soggy cardboard.