While Uncle Green still occasionally reassemble to excavate their power pop love songs about Michael Dukakis, vocalist/guitarist Matt Brown has been fronting (along with Halley O’Malley) the decidedly choppier Ambulette for a few years now. The combo marks the vinyl release of their debut EP Too Bad About Your Problems with a performance at 529 on Saturday, March 7, along with sets from Five-Eight, Big Fish Ensemble and Loud Humans.
The rest of the band members have similarly long histories in the Atlanta music scene: lead guitarist Jonny Daly is a veteran of Drag the River and Right As Rain, among many other groups, and can currently be found in Jackson County Line; bassist Lee Kennedy first came to my attention in the late ‘90s while in Little Bobby Taylors, popping up later with Sonia Tetlow and Michelle Malone; drummer Lee Wiggins plays with Lesibu Grand after stints in Smile Factory and other combos. With Ambulette they’re going for more of a jagged guitar-heavy post-punk pogo that more often than not brings to mind early/urgent Police rather than Wire or Television. Because you see, The Police were more about pop than art, and so are Ambulette. They can’t escape it.
“Four Walls and a Roof” and “Lights Out White Wash” offer vague touches of that agitated Anglo-fied reggae, the latter with spazzy outbursts that remind listeners these dusty old squares can still bust a move punk-rock-style, sonny. The chorus of the sharp ‘n’ spiky “This Town” also would’ve made it a great early Police single, with O’Malley’s vocals distinguishing it from the bulk of Problems, where Brown’s distinctive voice, uncanny knack for melodies and preference for upbeat background harmonies make the band sound like…well, like Uncle Green. I mean, put on “Told You Sold You” and tell me that’s not a killer Uncle Green song. They can’t escape it.