The band for whom the words ‘power pop’ could have been invented return after an 18 month absence. While the debut album 1977 had its highlights, the follow-up Nu-Clear Sound suffered somewhat on account of the fact that main man Tim Wheeler seemed to have forgotten to write any songs. Free All Angels is therefore an important album for the Northern Irish four-piece, and it’s pleasing to report that it is something of a triumph.
The template for Ash’s songs have always been insanely catchy guitar tunes, distinguished from the usual indie-rock style by hopelessly romantic lyrics. The opening track Walking Barefoot kicks the album off in cracking fashion, with Wheeler crooning “Your beauty took my breath away/in awe all day” before the guitars and drums crash in. After two listens, it’s impossible to get the chorus out of your head, and it must be a future contender for a single.
Shining Light and Burn Baby Burn continue the album in similar style, and if you’ve heard these two singles you’ll know what to expect. Shining Light in particular with its Charlatans-style lope is quality guitar pop that fans will never tire of playing. It’s not all heads down rock n roll though – Candy samples The Walker Brothers‘ Make It Easy On Yourself to stunning effect and not even Wheeler’s somewhat sappy lyrics (“Don’t you know that it’s alright to be alone?”) can spoil the song.
Although Ash may have a reputation for thrashy guitar songs, songs such as Someday and There’s A Light could easily sell to the Coldplay and Travis fans who have appeared over the last year. The gorgeous, regret-tinged Sometimes in particular could be the finest thing Tim Wheeler has ever written.
With only a couple of inconsequential tracks preventing this from becoming a truly classic album (Shark and Submission seem to fly by without making much of an impression) this is an excellent return to form by Ash. The final track World Domination features Wheeler pleading “gimme gimme world domination” – another couple of albums like this one Tim, and it’s all yours.