"A Town Called Love" by Ace AmbroseReview
Out tomorrow (scheduled to coincide with the International Day of Peace) is the new Ace Ambrose single entitled "A Town Called Love".
This of course is in itself a cause for celebration, but it's worth putting it into context: her last singles were the acclaimed "Doomsayer" and "The Coming of Age" yet this new one will join them on her forthcoming ‘Doomsday Was Yesterday' immersive concept EP: despite the two year gap in releases.
All Ace fans will know that this is unintentional: her hiatus was due to health issues which have affected her plan but not wrecked it. I won't be patronising by suggesting that this moment of sharing great new music (presumably written long ago & kept safe until this moment) somehow "makes up" for her frankly appalling ordeal, but I am delighted that she has this opportunity to bask in the feedback this song will generate and hopefully this is a reset moment.
It's hard linking this song to its predecessors, even though I must now do that. The problem is exacerbated by Ace's originality. Like too many mediocre minds whose imagination is inferior to hers, I made the error of mentally assuming that all the EP tracks would be in the same ballpark musically. Although to be fair my epiphany came a few months ago when I heard her play it live, the idea of her setting a song in the Wild West let alone placing it on the same record as "Doomsayer" etc, had not occurred to me. I forget that this is someone with a penchant for time machines & who is just as interested in travelling backwards as forwards. All sorts of culture, pop or otherwise are her oyster.
For I've let the cat out of the bag now: "A Town Called Love" is set in those far off days (the superb artwork by Curtis Cripps again makes that so clear) where "… a Bard turned Outlaw (is) passing through a wayward town bearing witness to its residents' fight against the corrupt Sheriff for their right to love freely without fear…"
Consequently, the sound is entirely unlike the earlier songs. But one wouldn't expect Ace to repeat herself in any way. Though I loved her band, Ace and the Oddity (I hope it time a band becomes an option again for her), most people probably have experienced her live solo with an acoustic guitar & this sort of track lends itself to that arrangement (though Jack Tate provides suitable "wildstyle" lead guitar). As a totally self sufficient artist (as her circumstances dictate) whose hand is on the creative tiller from conception through recording and mixing to finished article (credit to Youth Music NextGen whose grant, sponsored by TikTok, Turtle Bay and The People's Postcode Lottery, is enabling this project), she can go in any direction in terms of complexity or otherwise of arrangement.
Not that this is any sort of "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling" sort of clichéd western pastiche: Ace describes it as an "alt rock lullaby" and the sound, while sparse, evoking huge empty spaces, is completely contemporary. Her gentle, ethereal vocal provides the lullaby element over the gentle arrangement: though her condemnation of the "bad man" sheriff is rather detached: not laced with any venom in her delivery. No doubt she's leaving dealing with him to the bard/outlaw and offering herself instead as an objective observer, who, through her vantage point as a time traveller can see the big picture. The steel & sparkiness come from the shards of lead guitar: which jab in and out of the track in much the same way Ry Cooder's playing does in "Paris Texas": though admittedly a completely different style of playing.
Quite where "A Town Called Love" fits into the narrative of ‘Doomsday Was Yesterday' is beyond me to say on current evidence: I clearly need more pieces of the puzzle (perhaps all of them) and maybe a primer from Ace. I'd say the whole may well range across time & space to tackle Big Themes. These may include touching on apocalyptic issues but as far as the new song goes, she also focuses in on the small & personal: and indeed the positive (love). There is a sense of identifying with special agencies and catalysts: the town requires an outsider to intervene to deal with its problem. Maybe there is a Dr Who thing going on or maybe she's channelling Michael Moorcock and the idea of the Eternal Champion? Interesting concepts in any regard.
Nevertheless, if you wish to approach "A Town Called Love" from an angle other than the high concept one which Ace seems to have taken in writing it, then you have a lilting, gentle song about love prevailing over unpleasantness, about freedom to construct one's own gender and sexual identity and about people using their powers to aid such states of affairs & not for selfish ends. All of which are admirable & not covered in your average pop song (certainly not in this format) and which, at the most basic level, display Ace Ambrose's creative range.
I indicated in a recent review (well probably a lot of them to be honest) how I prefer to be surprised by a song: that has impact on me in head & heart. I turn away from derivative songs which take a commonplace subject, already well covered in popular music & which shuffle the clichéd lyrics associated with it. Such tracks offer no original truths in my opinion.
Ace surprises: that's her forte, but she doesn't do it as a cheap gimmick to attract attention. It's a means to an emotional & creative end for her. I suspect to do otherwise would bore her.
I'm surprised by "A Town Called Love" (in a good way) but even more so am I pleased that Ace Ambrose has ridden back into town herself.