Anna Minard claims to "know nothing about music." For this column, we force her to listen to random records by artists considered to be important by music nerds.
In a Priest Driven Ambulance
Let's get the copyediting out of the way: Guys, we've got to get a hyphen in there! Seriously, it should be "Priest-Driven," and it keeps bugging me, but now I've said it and we can move on. Oh, hey, can you tell by the weaksauce intro about hyphens that I maybe didn't love this one?
Well, me listening to In a Priest Driven Ambulance was the result of a hard-fought battle by half the music department and the internet over which album to choose—first a Facebook post, then a poll on Line Out, our music blog. Everyone got all attitudey about it in a way that was so emblematic of how we all think about music so differently, we can barely hear each other over our own assumptions. The Line Out poll swung in favor of Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, which was then immediately decreed unacceptable by commenters. Then other people yelled, "Whatastupidhipster," and then other people cursed, and generally, shit got feisty. One comment, from longball, I'd like to respond to: "The only good point raised against Yoshimi is that Anna must be familiar with at least 3 of the tracks if she has left her house any time in the last decade." To which I say: NOPE! I just heard my first Flaming Lips song a couple months ago, when a friend put "Do You Realize?" on a mix, because you can totally still surprise me with songs like that.
The poll stayed with Yoshimi at number one and Soft Bulletin a close second, and then I guess they just threw democracy in the garbage to give me Ambulance, an album that's sufficiently nerdy.
The first track starts with a couple seconds of carnival organ, then goes straight into distorted guitar, then some off-key singing about Jesus, which is occasionally accompanied by a demon voice underneath it. It doesn't change that much over the album—distortion, yell-singing, some weird bits added here and there. Somehow it all sounds undeniably American, way more so than a lot of seemingly similar rock I've heard. I have no idea why I feel that way, but it popped into my head and stayed there the whole way through. Song after song, I see American flag patches and desert sunsets. It swoops and shouts like moving water, but always has a running thread of unease.
There's a very straightforward cover of "What a Wonderful World"; you expect it to go somewhere else, but it stays right there. A lot of the guitar sounds like it's played by a man made of tinfoil. The internet says this is a concept album about religion. Like I said, I didn't really love it. I did, however, want to hear more, to figure it out. We'll see.
I give this a "turn it down, it's past my bedtime" out of 10.