Someone Else's Deja Vu

Author: David MacFadden-Elliott
07/09/2008 | | | Album Review
Although Son, Ambulance released a split EP with Bright Eyes on Saddle Creek back in '01, their work has consistently been lost in the shuffle of releases from Cursive and Conor Oberst. Maybe the dream-pop soundscapes are not immediate enough for people to grasp, but that is the deal with Son, Ambulance, and their third full-length, Someone Else's Déjà Vu, shows no signs of backing away from that model. It is an assemblage of '60s pop from bossa to ballad, with lots of atmosphere giving the work a dusty, amorphous framework.

"A Girl in New York City" is what happens when your Brazilian cabbie blasts a samba and hits every pothole while you insist on wearing headphones and playing Bright Eyes. It also boasts some of the Paul Simon songwriting techniques that folks have been going ga-ga over ever since bourgeoisie favorites Vampire Weekend stole their professors' smoking sweaters and made cultural imperialism hip again. To a lesser extent, on "Quand Tu Marches Seul", Son, Ambulance gives French bossa nova a whirl.

"Legend of Lizeth" displays wafts of Sea and Cake and Air, a cool draft of psychedelia that you can float away on in a morphine haze of carelessness. It also contains some of those Beach Boys vox—which prompts me to mention that the number of Beach Boys inflections as of late are simply astounding, and Brian Wilson may have to push up the release of That Lucky Old Sun to make sure the whole conceit isn't hopelessly played out before we get a chance to hear it.

The reverberations of the solo acoustic guitar and voice on "Constellations" lend the song the feel of being recorded in a cathedral, the perfect airy atmosphere for a song concerned with the heavens. The atmosphere covers the roadhouse grime of "The Renegade" as well—you can even hear an amplifier buzzing during the quieter parts of the song.

The title track, "Someone Else's Déjà Vu", is another sedimentary effort from Son, Ambulance, with layers of drums and handclaps, stomps and taps courtesy of Jamie Pressnall of Tilly and the Wall, a body of acoustic guitar, undercurrents of distorted guitar, twinkling upper-register Rhodes, back-up vox repeating a melody akin to the old "Duke of Earl" doo-wop number, and—why the hell not?—a string section.

In a couple of spots, Son, Ambulance doses out straight-ahead, up-tempo pop. While ostensibly a number to play while driving with the "top down," "Juliet's Son" is really a downer—better suited for driving with the convertible functions busted and the top jammed down on a stormy day on the Oregon coast. As a stargazer looks toward the top of the pop charts and dreams of James Dean, the song ends with "Maybe you won't die / Maybe you won't die young." Somewhat more hopeful is the other up-tempo number, "Horizons", which is relieved with "Now that the hating's been done / And you have no qualms with anyone."

Son, Ambulance is less of a band at present and more of a Joseph Knapp project in which he works with erstwhile bandmate Jeffrey Koster. While everyone else has bailed this jolly roger, Knapp holds tight to the helm with the masts up, letting the wind blow him further down this difficult and nearly-impassable course.
Someone Else's Deja Vu

Someone Else's Deja Vu

LP / CD / MP3