erasing clouds

Crispy Ambulance, Scissorgun

reviewed by Dave heaton

It's hard to write about a group that has a past but is new to you, without either getting the facts wrong or embarrassing yourself by acting like you know more than you do. Crispy Ambulance has quite a past, but I know then from what they've done this year: record and release Scissorgun, their first studio album in around 20 years and an excellent, sharp collection of darkly tinged rock.

Formed in Manchester in 1978, Crispy Ambulance was part of the famed Factory Records scene, and was part into it by their friends Joy Division, no less. Plagued by comparisons to that classic group, Crispy Ambulance have gone rather under-noticed by music historians as far as I can tell, but have nonetheless reformed, with its original lineup, for this release. It's nice to see a group reform for reasons that aren't commercial, as most reunions seem more like photo shoots and PR exercises than a renewal of artistic bonds. And while it's usually a truism that reunions lead to mediocre albums, that can't be said about Scissorgun. If their original recordings sound anywhere as good as this release, rock history has given them a bad deal, for sure.

Judging by Scissorgun, Crispy Ambulance's sound is on the balance between post-punk and new-wave, with the melodies and synth of the latter and the former's rugged, chant-like vocals, crisp guitar and weird energy. They also share Joy Division's taste for darker emotions and moods, with lyrics concentrating on feeling lonely, angry and lost. Yet they also retain a dry sense of humor, as evidenced by the great song title "Even now, in heaven there are angels carrying savage weapons."

As much as the phrase "guitar-rock" is too reminiscent of vapid 70s rock on an "As Seen on TV" collection, this is definitely a guitar album. Whether the guitars are complementing the melody and then soloing, as on "Parallax," soaking everything through on a more dense track like "Re-animator" or taking the spotlight for an instrumental ("Even now…"), they have a huge, beautiful sound. On a darker trip than most of today's popular rock bands, who even when trying to seem "dark" are really just out to entertain, Crispy Ambulance have an unconventional sound that still sounds fresh, despite their lengthy absence from music.


Issue 10, July 2002 | next article

this month's issue
about erasing clouds

Copyright (c) 2005 erasing clouds