Author: Brian Fogarty
01/05/2005 | Exoduster.com | www.exoduster.com | Album Review
After several years between releases, Joe Knapp's Son, Ambulance is back working on a different level of musicianship than his previous two releases. As mentioned, Son, Ambulance is essentially Knapp and he utilizes musicians from the Saddle Creek family and outside that circle. Son, Ambulance first release was the 2001 split with Bright Eyes entitled Oh, Holy Fools. It was clear at that stage Knapp was still getting his footing which is even a harder task when alternating tracks with Conor Oberst. However, his debut full-length Euphemystic released later that year, illustrated Knapp was on track for greater things. On Key, Knapp is joined by brother Daniel Knapp on piano, Dylan Strimple on guitar, Corey Broman on drums and Erika Pederson on bass and vocals. Coming out of the Oberst's world of singer-songwriting, Knapp has very similar compositions to Bright Eyes but heavily lessens the whining, angst atmosphere and less in a storytelling manner. Thanks to the focused use of piano, many of the tracks move towards majestic anthems that help represent Knapp's rich lyrical content – probably the best illustration being the epic "Sex in C Minor." The thirteen tracks – though really eleven – combine for nearly an hour of both drawn out eight minute affairs ("Case of You/Wrinkle, Wrinkle") to shorter, more manageable rock numbers ("Taxi Cab Driver"). While there are no real drop offs between songs, highlights are assured from the opener "Paper Snowflakes" that really sets the tone for the record, the aforementioned "Sex in C Minor," the complete change on the hip rock number "Taxi Cab Driver," the spacey, electronic "Glitter Angel" and fast, uptempo piano playing and great latter song harmonies of closer "Pleasure, Now." Thanks to the unbelievably catchy chorus, "Taxi Cab Driver" receives the special gold sticker of the day for this record; but "Pleasure, Now" is pretty damn close to taking that title. This is one of the best sophomore records I've heard in awhile and helps to promise that Knapp and Son, Ambulance are going to be in play for a long time to come.