"The Coming of Age" by Ace AmbroseReview
Any new release from Ace Ambrose must have the characteristics of creating anticipation & wonder in our minds: what on earth will she come up with next? Her brand new single, "The Coming Of Age" which is out on April 30th is certainly no exception to such a rule of thumb.
Her first since the mighty "Doomsayer" arrived in November 2020 (though don't forget her super assertive guitar playing on YNES' "Better Job" in February 2021), this new one seems not to feature her Gal Fawkes alter ego but has instead swapped the perspective of the revolutionary for that of the adolescent. For as the title clearly signals, this song is based upon Ace's take upon coming of age movies (it came to her apparently after she fell asleep while watching ‘The Breakfast Club') and questions the forces in society which may make children grow up too fast. Consequently, the arrangement reflects the synth rock sound contemporary with that film (though in true Ace fashion there is apparently a second version in the can which sounds like Roy Orbison. The mind frankly boggles at what that must be like) and features local musicians Phil Morley (Parade) on synth, Hannah Rose Davies on violin and Kieran Nikolich on guitar. Produced by Chris Field at Park Studios in Birmingham, the session was in fact Ace's prize for winning the Millsy's Hop House Songwriting Contest in 2019 (and what a strong field that was).
So with the background lightly sketched in, what can you expect from the artefact itself? Well as with all things Ace, it's worth expecting the unexpected as some of your expectations will be confounded, some exceeded & a few simply met. Her pop sensibilities are all present & correct and on a surface level, it will have broad & instant appeal of a captivating variety. She is however not simply a musician but a conceptual artist & the onion has multiple layers beneath its skin. The musical effect is instantaneous: the synth sound evoking the dream source of the inspiration (I speculate that the "Roy Orbison version" may take his spectral "In Dreams" as its starting point) kicks the mood right in: melodic and not as icy as such stylings can often be: her warm vocal (much gentler than as Gal Fawkes) sits above it in a subtle and empathetic way: more Tracey Thorn perhaps than Alison Moyet in its ability to connect with us. Chris' subtle production manages to strike a clever balance between vocal detachment and engagement. I also thought of Suicide's classic "Dream Baby Dream": less morbid for sure but equally insistent/persistent in its moodscape. The additional (stringed) instruments are wise additions: again they serve to pull the sound back from that antiseptic alienation so redolent of the synth era genre and offering humanity: after all with a key note of "it's the end of the world, let's have some fun", you really can't go down too a barren musical road.
The lyrics as I suggested, take the details of the song into most interesting areas, consistent with the vivid imagery of dreamscapes, at times diving off into weird areas beyond rational comprehension as dreams do, then pulling back to the central theme of those movies. A sense of the loss of moving from innocence into something more grounded yet less magical, it mourns a loss while advocating both a conscious return to mindsets of our youth and a celebration of them if only in hindsight.
As ever, Ace is as concerned with the visuals associated with her art as she is the sound (I look forwards to a video), so credit for sure to her frequent collaborator Curtis Cripps (Nerdy & Niche Art) depicting her in a "classic car driven by her childhood teddy bear ‘Griffy' on the run from a Grim Reaper looking character……a visual representation of Ace constantly on the run from growing up and clinging on to the nostalgia of childhood".