Retrospective #4: Undeclinable Ambuscade (part 3)

15 01 2009

When 2001 rolled around, it was time again for Epitaph’s yearly tradition; releasing another Punk-O-Rama. By then they were up to #6. Around the time, I already knew most of the bands on Epitaph and I just kept buying Punk-O-Rama’s to keep my collection intact. In the mean time, it had been really quiet around Undeclinable Ambuscade, until I put on Punk-O-Rama #6. As I was checking out the song, I noticed a band called “Undeclinable” on there. At first I though Epitaph had fucked up and forgotten a part of the name, but when listening to the song (Whatever) it was something totally different. It wasn’t bad or anything, but it wasn’t the typical Undeclinable Ambuscade sound. I liked it though. It was slow, but melodical. I couldn’t quite figure out what it was, but the song had me singing along in no time. I was floored… This band I had never heard of got me to like slower/poppy punkrock. I didn’t think I’d ever listen to anything slower than NOFX, let alone songs about liking girls. What the fuck? I didn’t think much of it, until I was checking out Epitaph’s new releases on their website.

I stumbled across the band Undeclinable and noticed something strange about their album called Sound City Burning… The artwork had the Undeclinable Ambuscade logo on it. Ho-ly shit. This was the same Undeclinable Ambuscade, or I guess Undeclinable that wrote Their Greatest Adventures and One For The Money? No way! Yes way! Upon further research I discovered Undeclinable Ambuscade had decided to change their name. And that was a good thing. I mean come on, what does ‘Ambuscade’ even mean? Apparently it means: ‘the act of concealing yourself and lying in wait to attack by surprise’. Yeah, I didn’t know either. Now think about it… If that is the meaning of ambuscade, the bandname just doesn’t make sense… Who thought of this? Come the fuck on. Were they trying to be intelligent with this? Or did they just throw two random words together? I’m gonna go with the latter…

Anyways. The reason for the namechange apparently was the band growing up. They wanted a more mature name to go with the more mature sound of their newest album, Sound City Burning. I can agree with that. Sound City Burning doesn’t sound anything like the previous two albums, yet you can still hear it’s the same band. Right of the bat you hear this band tried to do something different, and they did it very well. With Sound City Burning, the band started to experiment with the more melodical side of punkrock. There’s a lot of slower songs on there, but they’re all very melodic and mature-sounding. Songs like Whatever, Lonely And Burning and About Me are much more mature than anything on their previous records. Even the artwork was much more mature, and for the first time I actually liked it. It seemed the band was making the crossover to poppunk in the vein of Saves The Day and maybe Piebald, everything pointed that way,… But not quite.

Here and there you notice it’s still the same Undeclinable Ambuscade as before. Songs like Lipsdick and Cyber Centuries Fantasies show that it’s still a fun punkrockband that likes to joke about blowjobs and nerds. As fun as this can be, this is kinda what ruined Sound City Burning for me. On one hand, you have a bunch of mature, serious songs that are still catchy, but just more serious, both musically and lyrically. And then on the other hand, there’s a bunch of songs about blowjobs, the internet and the classic ‘die for what you stand for’. They aren’t bad, but it’s just too typical. They’re partysongs. They don’t really mean anything. That’s what kills it for me. Sound City Burning would have been perfect without all of the ‘funny’ stuff on it. The album has 15 songs on it. I think if they had cut that down to 10 or 11 (I can live with their cover of Is She Really Going Out With Him?), Sound City Burning would have been pretty much perfect. Don’t get me wrong, the album is good as it is, but it feels as if they tried to do something new, but didn’t have the guts to go for it all the way.

So when the album was released, the band started touring again. To me this was major. My very first ‘real’ punkrockshow was Undeclinable, Facing Down and Homer in a small club. It ruled. Undeclinable was great. They mixed up the old and the new and they sounded great. To me they were the best band around at that time. Over the years I must have seen them 6 or 7 times. My first band even got to play with them. But then around 2003 I think, the band just completely dropped of the face of the earth. Their website said they were broken up, but a few months later it would say they were just on hiatus. I didn’t really keep track after that, and my musical taste kind of drifted away from them, until last year. Last year, some guy announced that ‘The Undeclinables’ would be playing a show he was putting on. I searched the interweb again and found out Undeclinable was back, once again under a different name. However, something was different. Apparently, there had been some problems between Jasper and the rest of the band while writing Sound City Burning. Jasper got burned out on everything and just decided to quit. Rather than letting the band die a worthy death, they decided to find another singer and turn the band into a mere shadow of it’s former self. I think I listened to half a song only to notice this just sucked. Right now, I think the band is broken up again, and it better just stay that way.

I must admit, these past three retrospectives have been a pleasant trip down memory lane for me. I relived all kinds of moments when listening to these three albums. So I guess the only thing that’s left is which album I like most? All in all, I must admit that I like Sound City Burning the most. Well that may not be true entirely, but right now, it’s the album I enjoy the most. If you had asked me this back when I was 16 I’m pretty sure I would have answered this question differently. The overal sound and atmosphere of Sound City Burning are good. It’s layed back but still agressive. It’s one of those records that you sing along to front to back. On my iTunes, I deselected the songs I didn’t like, so basicly, Sound City Burning without the ‘stupid’ songs is their best album.

Undeclinable – Sound City Burning released on Epitaph Records in 2001

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One response

16 01 2009
niggle

I like your retrospective pieces on (the) undeclinable(s) (ambuscade). For me, things went wrong when they dropped the ‘ambuscade’. Sound City Burning is an ok enough album, but nothing compared to their previous work.

Also, regarding the name Undeclinable Ambuscade. They are defending it in the first song of ‘one for the money’, stating:

“open up your ears, and we’ll ask a question. What is in a name? Call billy jane, he’s still the same…
If you don’t understand, go f*** yourself with your difficult name”.

It’s my understanding that they got commented on their name too many times, and with the change in sound, thought it right to drop the part causing the ‘problems’.

I have a copy of their last cd, and while it tries to go back to their older sound, the new singer just can’t cut it. Maybe on CD it’s still ok, but live it’s a disaster. A whole part of the UA sound, was created by Jasper, the best live vocalist I’ve ever heard.

They are still playing shows now, but don’t be tempted in going. It’ll ruin the memory of one of the best European punkrockbands of the last decades.

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