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Free All Angels 
Artist: Ash
Label: Infectious
Length: 13 tracks and weighs in at 48.23 mins.

Ash keeps this touching forty fan of singer songwriters feeling young and still passionate for loud. Being from Northern  Ireland I was well aware of the rise of their legend as they juggled A levels and support slots for the likes of Pearl Jam. So by the time of their debut, 1977, I was  expectant. If there ever was a great power pop single, then "Oh Yeah"   was as good as it gets. Their second album Nu-Clear Sounds did not build on the legend but you may rest assured that Free All Angels   will take them back to the high ascendancy - and then some. By now, "Shining Light," of course, has blistered the Top Ten and "Run Baby Run," if  not quite as well selling, has delivered the message very loud and very melodic, that Ash are a force to be reckoned with worldwide. Their record company in America has just dropped them and I would not like to be in the shoes of the industry chump who took that decision, as this album takes the band into the next division of super stardom. 
 
 There certainly is something teen age about these boys and their female guitarist Charlotte. And that is a bit strange for mid twenty-somethings. On the back of the CD booklet singer and songwriter Tim Wheeler is lying in a bath pouring vodka down his neck from a great height. It's rock n roll excess of an immature kind. It's like a wee boy, made rock star and having to play some part. The picture doesn't look authentic or convincing which has been the story of Ash's Spinal Tap like acting at wild men of rock. It seems that it almost sent Wheeler over the edge and he actually wrote some of this album back home with his parents in Downpatrick trying to recover. Yet, the press shots would have us believe that here they go again!
 
 When it comes to songwriting though Wheeler is a mature craftsman. Taking the spirit of punk, adding the steel of grunge and blending it into the most catchy of pure power pop. It rocks in the most accessible way possible. They claimed that they could see as many singles coming off here as Michael Jackson brought off Thriller, or Springsteen tried with Born In The USA. There is little denial that it is possible with "Walking Barefoot" maybe taking on the summer, if the sun came out. "Cherry Bomb" is a certain too, and then there's "Candy," "Sometimes, Someday,"  and "Theres a Star." On the opener Wheeler's voice remains unconvincing and undistinguished but when the guitars crash in, and Rick failing  even more miserably than Wheeler at rock star charades McMurray slams those drums. It is a most intoxicating sound that drowns out all your doubts.  With an album full of songs like this I'm glad they want to stay teenagers. They make me feel half my age and still in touch. For summer sounds look no further.
 
4 tocks.
                 
 
Steve Stockman 5/19/2001
 
 

Steve Stockman is a Chaplain at Queens University, Belfast, Ireland, where he lives in community with 88 students. He used to book the bands for Greenbelt, edits Juice magazine, has a weekly radio show on BBC Radio Ulster and a web page - Rhythms of Redemption at http://stocki.ni.org. He also tries to spend some time with his wife Janice and daughters Caitlin and Jasmine.
   
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