Yes, I am aware I have put up a lot of Ash related posts on my blog since I started. Strangely enough, that was rather unexpected. I thought I would take the time to explore why I have fallen in love with this Northern Irish trio all over again.
I am really enjoying discovering new music at the moment, but strangely enough, it’s a band from my youth that is making the biggest impression.
A few months ago I heard Ash’s new song ‘Cocoon’ on Radio 6 Music and I was instantly reminded how much I used to love them. I was into the Britpop scene at the time and then Ash came along. Here were these three lads, only a couple of years older than I was and their songs were so infectious and youthful, and so different from anything else I was hearing at the time. I loved them instantly.
I saw them perform in a little nightclub in Rotterdam in 1996 and they were so energetic. I can’t remember how or what exactly, but we ran into them before or after that gig (my mind is a little fuzzy on that account). They were really nice guys, no different from other teenagers I knew really. All I remember is that Tim Wheeler was tiny and something about stickers of horses stuck on the back of their backstage passes with the immortal words ‘pissed horse’ written next to it with black marker… I remember finding it hilarious, but then, I was 17…
When Nu-Clear Sounds came out, I bought it immediately, and I was a bit disappointed by it at the time. I suppose I wanted more of the feel good Ash at the time, and although the album was good, it was too far removed from their first. Less catchy, less joyous. I have listened to it over the years and I have grown to really like it. It also coincided with me falling out of love with music in general.
In the last six months to a year I have really started to feel the fire again. The thirst to hear new music, but I have also been enjoying listening to old music and rediscovering bands I used to like. With the rampant beauty of Cocoon bursting out of my stereo on BBC 6 Music one day, I remembered how much I used to love Ash. So I spent some time in the last few months revisiting their story and back catalogue. Of course I had heard many of the songs on the radio, even loved some of them, like ‘Burn Baby Burn’ and ‘Orpheus’, just never got the albums. A lot of singles had completely escaped my badly functioning music radar, like most of the other singles from Free All Angels and Meltdown. And Twilight Of The Innocents? A-Z Series? Never even heard of those! Shocking!
I have discovered that I love every single album they have done. 1977 will always be my favourite, but Meltdown really does push all the right buttons for me as well. Free All Angels is superb, but I do feel it feels a bit too… clean. I have come to love Nu-Clear Sounds with a passion. It makes sense now, having more of an idea what mind space it was created in.
The A-Z Series is where I started with my explorations and it carries some of my favourite Ash songs now. Songs like ‘Arcadia’, ‘Binary’ and ‘Ichiban’ certainly pulled me back in. The idea behind it, to release 26 singles in a year instead of an album, was extremely brave and I would like to see other artists try it. In the end, it may not have been a huge commercial success, but I am sure that for Tim, Mark and Rick themselves it must have been an enormously satisfying, if exhausting, project.
With the release of Kablammo! last month Ash have sealed my ‘fandom’. It’s a great album that I have already listened a million times (well, getting close) and I am still loving it more with each listen. ‘Dispatch’, ‘Let’s Ride’ and ‘Cocoon’ are my favourites at the moment. In the beginning I was not so keen on the ballads, but especially ‘Moondust’ has really grown on me. Kablammo! is Ash as you want them, relentless, urgent and beautifully sweet at the same time.
All in all, 2015 is the year that I fell in love with Ash all over again and it’s a better year for it!