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Key

Author: Noel Murray
11/15/2004 | The Onion | www.avclub.com | Album Review
The Omaha music scene helped bring intense self-obsession and shredded folk-punk to indie-rock, but bands like Bright Eyes and Lullaby For The Working Class also regularly explore sprawl, both as a musical device and as a state of mind. Joe Knapp, the creative force behind Son, Ambulance, has embraced decompression over the course of his five years as a Saddle Creek regular, and on the band's second album, Key, Knapp ambles along in no particular hurry, trailing gentle melodies through a fine musical mist.

Knapp's Omaha contemporaries have avant-garde elements, but Son, Ambulance remains comparatively approachable. Key has a '70s-radio aesthetic, with rippling piano, clean country-rock guitars, and odd song structures giving experimental music a classic-rock context. A track like the nine-minute "Case Of You/Wrinkle Wrinkle" links up exiled-in-America Rolling Stones, glam-era David Bowie, and pre-boogie Thin Lizzy, while the draggy flamenco stylings of "Billy Budd," the twangy power-pop of "Taxi-Cab Driver," and the anthemic billow of "Pleasure, Now" sound eclectic but warmly familiar. Knapp's indistinct, somewhat whiny vocals hold Son, Ambulance back a bit, and Key drifts into blandness over the course of its leisurely 55 minutes, but the record holds together by sketching America's heartland as a place where the outlaw edge of culture winds up after it's chased out of the city.
Key

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