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


Retrospective #3: Undeclinable Ambuscade (part 2)

7 01 2009

Last retrospective, I talked about an album that changed my life. That album was Their Greatest Adventures by Undeclinable Ambuscade. If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you read that one before reading this. You can check it out here.

As soon as I caught wind of Undeclinable Ambuscade’s second album, entitled One For The Money, I searched everywhere online for more information about it. Because nobody trusted online shopping back then, it was pretty much impossible for me to get a hold of One For The Money. The CD was this big mystery to me, until one of my friends at the skatepark told me something I hadn’t noticed. Around that time, my friends and I were huge fans of the Punk-O-Rama CD’s Epitaph put out. They were cheap as fuck, they had 20 songs and above all, they had the word “punk” on them. Nothing more punk than that, right? Anyways, I think I picked in on Punk-O-Rama when #5 was released. Then I just bought a random one whenever I would encounter it. So one day my friend asks me if I had checked out Punk-O-Rama #3 yet. I told him I hadn’t and he let me borrow it. I popped it in and while checking the booklet  I was stunned. Undeclinable Ambuscade was on there… And with a song I had never heard before!

7 Years was a song that was also on One For The Money. I was stoked. Finally I heard the first sounds of One For The Money, and boy was it good. The song was just as fast and melodic as the ones on Their Greatest Adventures… But hold on… What’s that? A girl singing? A punkrockband with a GIRL singing along??? My 16-year-old mind was blown. Apparently some girl named Aline Bruyns sang with Jasper on that song. She’s in some shitty nu-metal band right now, so yeah, let’s just forget about that. I can’t believe you can go from singing on one of Undeclinable Ambuscade’s best songs to singing in a shitty Limp Bizkit ripoff. And come on, look at her. She’s not even hot.

But what matters is that song. 7 Years got me so stoked for the band’s latest album I had to have it. The next time I went to my local recordstore and bought it. Once again, the artwork was ugly as sin, but that didn’t matter to me. This band was about to blow me away again for the billionth time. I payed for the record, rushed home and put it on. One For The Money starts of with Singe ’92, a song which pretty much sets the tone for the record and atmosphere. The record is just one big ‘fuck you’ to anyone that claimed Undeclinable Ambuscade wasn’t punk anymore. I loved it. I’ve always loved the underdogs, as I felt like one myself. I was a punkrock skateboarder, not exactly the most popular thing at the time. Girls wouldn’t even look at me twice. Every song on the album was great. I even liked the slower ones. And there were slow ones. You could notice the band experimenting with a different kind of songs. Songs like Walking On Air were much slower than the ones on Their Greatest Adventures, but they were still really good. Actually, walking on air might be one of my favorite UA songs ’til this day. This was odd because up until that point I ony liked hard and fast music. This kind of songs was anything but that, but still it blew me away. But what amazed me the most was the last song.

The very last song on One For The Money is called History Forgot About Me. It’s a song about a prince travels around the world slaying dragons. The prince is looking for a princess but he can’t seem to find one. After his travels, he returns home to become king, without a queen. Basicly, the song says that you could do all the shit you want, try to be as much of a ‘hero’ as you want, without a good girl by your side, your life sucks.

Now it wasn’t so much the lyrics that appealed to me as it was the music. The song starts of with this awesome bass-intro. That intro/song alone is responsible for me buying a bass. I fell in love with the sound of a bass after hearing that song. I can’t explain it, you just have to hear it. One of the first things I learned on bass was the intro to History Forgot About Me, and to this day I still know how to play it. This song just made the entire album for me. Don’t get me wrong, One For The Money is a great, great, great punkrock record, but this song just set it apart for me. I think I might like One For The Money more than Their Greatest Adventures.

I was still enjoying One For The Money when I picked up the latest Punk-O-Rama (at that time). It was #6. While checking out some new tunes (among which Deviates which I talked about in the first Retrospective) I noticed a band called ‘Undeclinable’ on the Punk-O-Rama. This struck me odd, because that would be much too similar to Undeclinable Ambuscade. I put on the song to see what was up, and it was this slow poppy punkrocksong. I figured it must be some other band but boy was I wrong. I looked up the band, and saw they had the same logo and the same guys in the band… Apparently they changed their name and were coming out with a brand new album…

Undeclinable Ambuscade – One For The Money released on Epitaph Records in 1998

Retrospective #2: Undeclinable Ambuscade (part 1)

1 01 2009

The next three Retrospectives will all be about the same band. They released three albums, back to back, which all were good in their own way, so I decided to give you a rundown on all of them, starting with the first one: Their Greatest Adventures.

The first time I held this CD in my hands I didn’t really think anything good of it. I mean come on, look at that cover. Is that the definition of ‘ugliest artwork ever’ or what? It’s not even funny in an ironic way, it’s just stupid. And it’s so cliché too. I mean look at it, the cover says ‘punk’ and then there’s a broken accoustic guitar above it. And one of the guys is throwing up the horns… ROCK ON DUDE! But I have to admit, it stood out. Maybe that was the point… “We’ll just make this look as ugly as possible so people will notice.” There’s no such thing as bad publicity I guess. Anyways, after my initial shock I went over to the counter of my local recordstore and asked the guy working there if I could have a listen…

This CD was recommended to me by the kid that lived (and still lives) next to me. We were both just getting into punk and hardcore, and we were looking for the fastest bands around. He told me about this band that was so fast you wouldn’t believe it. And boy he wasn’t kidding. As soon as the clerk  popped in the CD, I was floored. This band was fast… And above all, they were fucking good! The first 5 songs of the album just blew by. I was so amazed at the intensity of this band. They were fast, but melodic. They were agressive, but at the same time the singer kept everything in check by his singing. He really sang, he wasn’t just screaming. The combination of this al just worked. It was so good. All of a sudden the entire mood of the album changed. Things slowed down and this next song started off sounding like a tribal-song… I flipped over the CD and looked for the song playing. ‘African Song’. Well, I gotta be honest, I can’t think of a better way to describe this song. ‘Til this day I still remember it. I even catch myself playing it on guitar every now and then. It’s basicly a song that sounds like an African tribe is playing it, and then it just burst into a fast punkrocksong.

As I was thinking about the sheer awesomeness of this song, it just raced past me and the album picked up speed again. I glanced over the backside of the CD to see what else was on there and suddenly I saw the word ‘Snowboard’. Holy shit. These guys have a song about snowboarding. How fucking cool is that?! At the time my life consisted of two things: listening to fast music and skateboarding. Every summer my friends and I would skate all day every day. And when we weren’t, we’d be reading Trasher or watching skatevideos. So you can imagine how stoked I was to see a band play songs about snowboarding. It’s not really skateboarding, but it’s the next best thing, right?Anyways, that’s when I was pretty much sold for this band. I bought the CD and on the way home I popped it in my discman and just enjoyed the awesomeness that is “Their Greatest Adventures”.

When i got home I started looking up some information about the band. I discovered they were from Holland. Once again, my mind was blown. A band this good was from a city only a few hours away from where I lived. To me that was just incredible. It obviously didn’t take a lot to amaze me back then. Anyways, this gave me some kind of bond with the band. I was proud to be from Europe, because Undeclinable Ambuscade proved it’s not just the Bay-area punkbands that are good. Undeclinable Ambuscade started in this cold European country and then got on Epitaph Records. That’s gotta count for somehint, right?

To me, Undeclinable Ambuscade was about as punk rock as you could get. They wore baggy pants, Vans and loved skateboarding and snowboarding. That’s pretty much all I wanted in a band. Just look at that picture. It’s the band ‘peeing’ against a ferrari. Now tell me, what’s more punk rock than pissing on another guy’s car, let alone another guy’s $100,000 car? To me that summarized what the band was about. The picture awesome, and so is the band.

Now, Their Greatest Adventures was released in 1997. Everything I just described took place in 2000 or maybe 2001 I think. As I was reading some interviews with the band, I noticed they talked about this other album they had released. Hold on a minute… This band has other albums? I searched the internet for more information about this ‘other record’, and sure enough, about a year after Their Greatest Adventures was released, they put out another album called One For The Money. But that’s something for part 2 of this retrospective…

Undeclinable Ambuscade – Their Greatest Adventures released on Epitaph Records in 1997.

Retrospective #1: Deviates

27 12 2008

“Oh, you mean Deviate?” That’s often what I hear when I talk to people about this band. No, they are, or rather were, in fact called Deviates. This South Bay punkrockband is one I haven’t forgotten about in all these years. In the summer of 2001, I stumbled across a song of theirs on Punk-O-Rama volume 6. As soon as the first notes of Come With Me hit me, I was hooked. Who was this band I had never heard about before? A band this good had to be big. I started looking for their album Time Is The Distance in every recordstore in my area, but to no avail.

One day I was going through this catalog, and to my surprise they were selling Time Is The Distance. I ordered the thing immediatly. One day I got home from school and there was a package waiting for me. I immediatly knew what was in it.

Just by looking at the artwork you could tell this wasn’t your typical Epitaph punkrockband. The artwork was dark (literally) with very dark imagery. Check it out. How fucking badass does that thing look. It has skulls in everything, and on the inside there’s these black things with huge fangs. You could almost say it was a heavy metal version of Dali’s melting clocks. I had never seen anything like it before. I popped the disc into my cd-player and was rejoiced to recognize the first notes. The album starts with Come With Me. I started singing along immediatly. But after Come With Me came the real test. Would the rest of the album be as good? What follows are 35 minutes of punkrock passion. Every song on Time Is The Distance is just as energetic as the one before. But what really sets this band apart is the atmosphere.

As a 15-year old kid, I was just discovering punkrock. I was hooked on stuff like NOFX, The Offspring and Strung Out. Then all of a sudden Deviates come along and punch me in the face with the darkest songs I had ever heard a punkrockband play. Time Is The Distance is a very atmospheric record. It can be a depressing album at times, but the energy and catchy vocals refrain the album from becoming a depressing experience. The thing that sets this album aside the most are the lyrics. I was used to lyrics about feeling down or unnaccepted, but Deviates took it to a whole new level.

But all of a sudden I read the band had called it a day. I was dumbfounded. I had never read interviews with them, seen video’s or even showdates. It seemed like they just dropped of the face of the earth after Time Is The Distance was released. To this day I don’t know what happened. If you know, please contact me, because it still bothers me!

All in all, this band and this album in particular were very important to me when I was younger. Right now, as I’m writing this, I have Time Is The Distance playing, and I have to admit, it stood the test of time very well. It’s still catchy and it doesn’t sound outdated in any way. I can recommend Time Is The Distance for every punkrockfan that is looking for something that sounds a bit different than your typical NOFX-clone. I’m pretty sure you can find it on amazon for maybe $5, so it’s totally worth it.

Deviates – Time Is The Distance released in 2001 on Epitaph Records