Donít be fooled by the new-agey cover art; the latest release
from Son, Ambulance is one of the most premier indie
rock bands as of late. Once roommates and bandmates with the
raspy-voiced and overexposed Conor Oberst of Bright
Eyes, Joe Knapp has yet to escape the association.
Their split CD, Oh Holy Fools, contained eight sneakily
alternating songs from the two Nebraskans. Euphemystic
is the first release of Son, Ambulance, and shows a great
deal of promise. Itís so hard to review this record when all
I can hear in my head are comparisons to Bright Eyes, but
Iíll try anyway.
Generally containing intensely personal mid-tempo songs,
Euphemystic starts with the catchy "An Instant Death",
showcasing Joe Knappís straightforward, optimistic voice.
Beginning with an acoustic guitar, it launches into a poppy,
positive introduction to a wonderful record. I hear the similarities
to Belle and Sebastian, but I think B&S are boring
Scottish tripe. Joe Knappís stuff is so much more heartfelt
and sincere. Influences are various and sundry, and seem to
include the Rolling Stones in their late 1970s period
with a folky twang, Bruce Springsteen, Jets to Brazilís
Orange Rhyming Dictionary, and a strong pull to Billy
Joelís piano-based tunes. This is classic singer songwriter
material with a very up-front production style, and itís destined
Each song is different with Knappís soft but clear vocal
lines maintaining continuity. His voice isnít as strong as
Adam Duritz of Counting Crows, but itís stronger
than Oberstís. If you find Oberst to be a presumptuous indie
darling, Son, Ambulance will be a refreshing change. His songwriting
is brilliant but the emotions are somewhat immature, which
is perhaps its most endearing trait. Track five is "Maria
in Motion", a Bossa Nova inspired number. Maria is such a
popular Latina name, and makes me wish he had chosen Consuela,
Juanita, or Mercedes. Nonetheless, this is a catchy record
and improves with each listen.
"Violet", the last track, has Oberst singing guest vocals,
and the two voices juxtaposed is a nice mix, but his warbley
faux vibrato sounds weak next to Knappís clear voice. The
appeal Oberst retains on his own records is his troubled and
dramatic approach, where Knapp finds a prettier, kinder sensibility.
Upon first listen one might dismiss this album as bedroom
songwriter or rehashed Bright Eyes, but itís so not. If you
are at all sick of Bright Eyes or even if you enjoy them,
you will be pleased with Euphemystic. Remember, however,
not to compare the two, like I did here.
ó Vivian Sarratt
- An Instant Death
- An Instant Birth
- Seven Days
- A Book Laid On Its Binding
- Maria In Motion
- The Anonymous
- Like A Friend
- I Promise Youíll Never Grow Old
- A New Dress For Maybell
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