Irish band Ash have been doing their thing continuously and consistently for the past twenty-six years. Not bad for a trio that formed in their teens and are now forty-somethings. Considering the band’s longevity, it is perhaps a little surprising to discover that Islands is only Ash’s seventh studio album, although this count does exclude their début mini-album, Trailer, and 2009-2010’s A–Z Series which saw them release twenty-six singles, and nearly as many B-sides, in a twelve-month period.
With their latest release, Ash make no attempts to reinvent the wheel, serving up forty-five minutes worth of masterful power-pop, with the twelve songs collected on Islands feeling as though they have always existed in Ash’s back catalogue. They just feel that familiar. Due to this sense of familiarity, of the same ground being re-trodden, I wanted to hate this record. But Ash do what they do with such aplomb, with such a charming sense of fun, that Islands proves itself to be a very enjoyable listen.
Sure, the album starts to lag by the end, and second single Annabel fails to leave a lasting impression on the audience, but the “simple, dumb, punky and full of unnecessary swearing” – guitarist and vocalist Tim Wheeler’s words – lead single Buzzkill is nothing if not entertaining and catchy. And the excellent Did Your Love Burn Out?, with its retro-rock inspired sound and deft composition, is worth the price of admission on its own. With a mellower, acoustic driven tonality and accompanying string section, Don’t Need Your Love demonstrates that Ash can competently vary their sound.
Islands won’t propel Ash back the heights they achieved in the mid-nineties or the early two-thousands, but neither will it push listeners away.