FIERCE PANDA 15th September 2023
It’s been five years, what with COVID and all, and what we’ve seen of Ash is a rescheduled Greatest Hits tour. It was a great way to remind people quite how many great songs they have but what we really want is more NEW great tunes. So, here’s ‘Race The Night’, and it is just what I was waiting for.
Banging out from the opening title track, this is the classic three-piece. Simple, chiming pop chorus, rising melody, pounding drums and some simple decoration with tiny guitar figures and a minute touch of keys. It brings on the rushing sensation that has been a signature for Ash since ‘1977’ debuted. Ever the innovator; Tim Wheeler has gone in some other directions, trying heavier sounds on ‘Meltdown’ or going big on the pop decoration on ‘Free All Angels’, even the experimentation on the A-Z series of twenty-six singles over a year. This is a slice of the classic sound – quite capable of being heavy and not afraid of little studio frills but ultimately the pop-rock sound of a three-piece (the purest expression of rock music). There’s plenty of guitar solos here, allegedly because Wheeler spent part of lockdown learning ‘Freebird’ note for note!
Not a teenager any more, lyrics touch on still feeling excited by life even as usual faces and places pass (‘Usual Places’) and still being confused by love and feelings (‘Rewards In Mind’). He ponders love, he exults in the feelings passion brings, he gets drunk and sad, he slags people off – doing it twice; in ‘Peanut Brain’ and ‘Braindead’ (must have lost his tolerance of stupidity in lockdown….). Other times (‘Double Dare’) he’s top of the world, cocky and strutting. There are nice touches, like the duet on ‘Oslo’ and string sounds. Then there’s ‘Like A God’. Zeppelin-like in it’s thunderous drumming, it gets reprised at the album close to savour the heavy end of the Ash sound and indulge a creative itch.
“Making new music and being excited about it keeps us going”, says Tim Wheeler, “and it’s the power of three. If you can get the dynamics going between three people, it’s a lot easier than with a larger group. And we got the formula right early on…”. This album proves that, thirty years on, that this is still a band enjoying themselves as a vital creative force.
Here’s our review of their 2021 Leeds gig: https://www.vanguard-online.co.uk/ash-live-review-2021-a-celebration-of-singles/
And their last hits compilation: https://www.vanguard-online.co.uk/teenage-wildlife-25-years-of-ash/
And from the period when the band was a foursome – an interview with Charlotte Hatherley: http://www.vgmusic.f9.co.uk/chalot.htm