Ash is one of those rare bands of the 90s that are still going strong today. What’s kept them around is their knack for writing a great pop-rock tune, their impressive live talent, and their bravery to try new things whilst staring failure in the face while grinning. They’ve had the balls to try out new ways of releasing music, such as their A – Z single series – releasing 26 singles in one year – and whilst they’ve now reverted back to the usual album format for new record Kablammo!, their tireless work ethic has created an album that only Ash could make.
And when I say that I mean that it is undeniably Ash. At points it’s fast-paced pop rock, at others gentle and melodic, and when it needs to be, it’s hard as hell. Cocoon throws us in straight away with that juggernaut rock, and they don’t disappoint here with the perfect reintroduction to what Ash are about if you’ve somehow forgotten; tints of Ramones sit against Tim’s silky but still youthful vocals and bring Cocoon right out of its shell. Machinery is more akin to the sound of their A-Z series experiment, but brings with it rhythms more familiar to their Nu-Clear sounds era. It works well as an amalgamation of old and new, and shows that strength in mutation has benefitted the band over the years
It wouldn’t be an Ash album without a couple of rock ballads would it? I mean, this is the band that brought us classics like Oh Yeah and Shining Light. Moondust is in the same vein as the aforementioned, and its beautifully sunny disposition would melt the heart of the strongest person. Free then manages to pull on the heartstrings even more, and draws on the feeling and honesty found on lead singer Tim Wheelers recent solo record, based around his fathers dementia. We saw a man laid bare on that record, and he repeats the trick on Free with lyrics to match: ‘In the undertone we drag each other down, if you don’t let go we’re both going to drown’.
The band proves once again with this album that they are masters of disguise as they switch from sound to sound, having fun along the way. Evel Knievel’s riff-laden loveliness shows off Tim’s guitar work -leaving out vocals to give you imagery of space-cowboys – whereas the lows and highs of Dispatch reveal a beautifully written track that snarls when called upon, but also nurses its own wounds in a tantalizing style.
Kablammo! is a welcome return for Ash to the album charts, which draws on all their skills they’ve tailored throughout their career. The record shows they haven’t lost any of their charm and drive along the way, and are back to what they love doing best: creating music that appeals to their fans.