It's hard to know exactly what to make of Ambulance Ltd.. On one hand, they're a shimmering pop band with an ear for anglophilic melody and a propensity for shoegazerish megabliss; on the other, they're a classic American rock 'n' roll band, forged from the ashes of a thousand similar groups that never made it out of the basement. Their self-titled album is a similar conundrum, and while it won't set the music world on its ear, its throng of chiming, mid-tempo pop tunes ("Ophelia", "Primitive (the way I treat you)") conceals a clutch of brilliantly schizophrenic compositions that walk the line between rollicking and raucous.
Opener "Yoga Means Union" dances around an elliptical guitar pattern, the weight of its intensity growing with each glistening chord, as the song spirals outward into a cosmic maypole flutter reminiscent of the Comsat Angels or early Echo & the Bunnymen. "Swim" tips its cap to the Smashing Pumpkins' wailing glissandi, the dreamy incantations of dissonant pop nugget "Sugar Pill" belie its stingy nature, and the sarcastic scorn of vengeful set-closer "Young Urban" is the band's bid for Shields-ian greatness.
The group creates an ornately atmospheric resonance throughout Ambulance Ltd., but their light-weight compositions place the album at serious risk of floating away. Many of the tunes are so airy that it's often easy to forget the disc is playing -- a common complaint about early '80s gloom-pop.
This isn't the most ingratiating of listening experiences, but if your blood runs cold at the thought of couples in love or the gorgeousness of a sun-soaked daybreak, you'd do well to spend an evening in the company of Ambulance Ltd.