Let's play a little word association here, huh? You say, "Son, ambulance." I say, "Paramedics! Little boy with a broken leg!" For me, even the band's name conjures thoughts of an accident, but maybe I'm just panicking because I've heard their new record, Key, and it's a dramatic—though sometimes lovely—disaster. Joe Knapp, the nucleus of Omaha's Son, Ambulance, surrounds himself with a rotating set of players, much like buddy Conor Oberst's ever-changing Bright Eyes. Knapp's crew originally went by Ambulance, but upon hearing the news that his teenage lady-friend was pregnant, the young but dutiful father decided that his son would come first in all aspects of his life—even in the title of his band. Knapp used to write tender little ditties like "Brown Park" and gentle-as-morning-dew ballads like "Katie Come True," and his mellow '70s-style piano rock made you wanna sift through your dad's closet for earth-tone shirts. But perhaps the strains of fatherhood have sent Knapp's music into disarray. This unruly and multilayered new record lacks the tidiness of his dreamy debut LP, Euphemystic. The addition of subtle instrumentation—like Cursive's Tim Kasher's purring accordion on "Billy Budd"—is a pleasant addition to Knapp's lullaby-piano chords, but on "House Guest," it sounds like Knapp inherited the drum machine that Kasher used to make the first Good Life record. And unfortunately, it ain't pretty. Likewise, the live shows can be erratic. Be prepared for off-key harmonies, but hang in there—when they hit it just right, it'll be just as sensitive and majestic as Jackson Browne. Except your mom won't be there. (Kara Zuaro)
SON, AMBULANCE WITH GREATER CALIFORNIA, VICTORY AT SEA AND WILMOT PROVISO AT KOO'S, 540 E. BROADWAY, LONG BEACH, (562) 491-7584; WWW.KOOS.ORG. WED., 7 P.M. $7. ALL AGES.
ALL THOSE DOUCHEBAGS
Curtis Brown is rock & roll. He's been to jail. He hates waking up. He likes booze and girls. He doesn't own a CD player. And he sings in a band called Bad Wizard, who look and sound like a band called Bad Wizard should: thick piles of hard-rock riffs sitting on fat-bottomed '70s rhythm, plus Brown howls a lot like Dickie Peterson from Blue Cheer. And the name's a mangling of the word Budweiser. There's nothing more '70s rock & roll than wizards and shit beer. Bad Wizard released their third full length, #1 Tonite, in October—it's boogie rock with a diamond-hard edge, a lot like its two predecessors. The band locks on a groove, but they work it without writing the same song 10 times per disc. If you always thought Black Oak Arkansas needed more MC5—or vice versa—you're set. It's the best of the '70s without the teenybopper lameness of the Darkness. "I'd like to think we can appeal to everyone because we do have a little metal. We do have a little bit of punk rock. And rock & roll. Hopefully, we can appeal to all those douchebags," says Brown. Righteous, brother. Don't call it retro, though—even if the sound and album covers sure imply that. "It's not meant to be retro. I'm definitely not trying to save '70s rock & roll," says Brown. "The main thing is that it's fun to perform. That's the point of it. Getting sweaty, people having a good time at the shows and getting nuts and getting wasted and getting laid. The style of music we're writing is a pretty good backdrop to that sort of evening." Oh, cool, getting wasted and getting laid. That's not retro. That's just classic. (Rex Reason)
BAD WIZARD WITH THE WITNESSES AND THE PLAYERS CLUB AT DETROIT BAR, 843 W. 19TH ST., COSTA MESA, (949) 642-0600; WWW.DETROITBAR.COM. WED., 9 P.M. $6. 21+.
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