Back in 2007, Ash proclaimed that the digital download age had put an end to the traditional album format. They instead embarked on a gloriously ambitious A-Z singles campaign, releasing a single every two weeks as they worked their way through the alphabet. While none of the 26 singles managed to bother the Top 40, the band admitted that they enjoyed the freedom the singles format provided them – an alternative to the album-tour-album cycle. Skip to 2015 and the onslaught of iTunes/Spotify Playlists hasn’t brought the album to its knees yet – in fact the increased popularity of vinyl sales recently may even have helped reinvigorate the format. If Kablammo! is the band’s step back into the world of LPs, then they’re certainly not shrinking back with their tails between their legs.
Ash of course have never been the quiet ones in the corner. Since bursting on to the scene in the early 90s with Trailer and the outstanding 1977, Ash have continued their knack of writing three minute fuzzy pop songs and established themselves as a pillar of the UK’s rock scene in the last two decades. Opening track and lead single Cocoon certainly hold nothing back in announcing the three-piece’s return. A thundering drum kicks of an invigorating opener that like all great Ash songs, would be the perfect soundtrack for some Midsummer revelry. For those who have followed Ash’s career there will be much to enjoy here. If you were expecting a reinvention in sound from the band, then you will be disappointed. Recorded in the band’s own Atomic Heart Studios in New York City, their punk rock takes an Americanised sheen in places that brings a freshness to the familiar nature of the songs.
While Ash have carved out a distinct sound during their 20 year career, elements of Kablammo! prick up influences from elsewhere. Evel Knievel sounds like a roughed-up younger brother of Muse’s Knights of Cydonia while Shutdown sounds like it would fit seamlessly onto The Lemonheads ‘Best Of’. Lead singer and chief songwriter Tim Wheeler may be closer to his 40s than his 20s but he certainly hasn’t lost his ability to write catchy, raucous and mosh-pit worthy rock songs. The brash moments are counterbalanced by more reflective numbers including Free and the piano-ballad For Eternity. The latter showing a confidence in songwriting that Wheeler’s been honing throughout the years.
Running just under 40 minutes, you do get the niggling feeling that cutting a couple of songs might have made the album a little tighter, but Ash have an undeniable energy that manages to pull them through some of the more plodding moments on the record. It doesn’t reach the heights of previous work, but Ash have produced a fun album that puts them back on the musical landscape for 2015 and provides them with some fresh impetus ahead of the festival season.
If Kablammo! is the first taste of Ash for many young listeners, then they’ve made a good account of themselves. The album certainly hold ups with recent releases by bands half their age and indicates that there’s plenty more life in the Irish trio yet. Long live the album!
You can see ‘Ash’ live at one of the followings venues…
30th May 2015 – Slane Castle(with Foo Fighters) TICKETS