Ash A-Z, Volume 2 Review

Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Second singles collection from the young-at-heart rockers.

Tom Hocknell 2010

With a name perfect for writing on pencil cases, Ash embraced their own adolescence in 1996 with the exuberant breakthrough album 1977, named after lead singer Tim Wheeler’s year of birth. It succeeded in two ways: it sold well and reclaimed rock for the kids. Free All Angels, their third album, rescued a second album dip by beating Janet Jackson to number one in 2001. But have they now, like the now-defunct Supergrass, outgrown their selling point?

This is the second collection of singles (following Volume 1’s A-M) originally released fortnightly throughout 2010, to the shrugging indifference of the top 40, if it still exists. It is their embrace of the digital age on… well, CD, and plays to their strengths as a singles band.

To write a hit single once a fortnight is challenging, and occasionally such prolific song-writing is their undoing. Insect’s string of rhymes lacks emotional punch and plods in a way singles really shouldn’t. You could argue the band misses the female touch (Charlotte Hatherley left for solo pastures in 2006), that they are trying too hard, and that this album sometimes feels like a project for the band rather than the listeners. But the energy that sometimes outstrips their skill illustrates that they remain young at heart.

The US college punk of Mind Control and the anthemic Binary prove they have not lost their grip on a good song, as does Change Your Name ("Rise up / you’ll get stronger"), which will appeal to Oasis fans, as will the ‘self-help to thrash guitars’ of Summer Snow, which has a solo screaming to be played while swinging on ropes above an audience. It is a shame that Carnal Love’s melodies are let down by a poor, whiney vocal and banal lines such as "I’m addicted to your sweet stuff". But the electronics-laced There Is Hope Again points the way to their future in more ways than one.

Their days of beating Janet Jackson to number one may have passed, but there is apparently plenty of what led them there left in the tank.

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