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Ash – 1977

June 4, 2008 by  

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Ash – 1977

Band: Ash
Album: 1977
Label: Infectious Records
Year: 1996
Rating: 4/5

This, my friends, is Ash at their best. Not at their most popular, for that would be the post-2000 album ‘Free All Angels’. And not at their most ‘alternative’, for that would be 1998’s flop ‘Nu-Clear Sounds’. This album – so called because it was the year in which both bassist Mark Hamilton and frontman Tim Wheeler were born, as well as being the year Star Wars was released – comprises twelve tracks embracing everything from crunching riffs to delicate lost boy vocals with all manner of sound effects squelched into the middle.

But how do they get away with such variety and make it sound so good? Perhaps having an average age of 19 at the time worked in favour for Ash. Not having settled into a particular niche, they took everything that inspired them and bundled it together in their now familiar boisterous style. ‘1977’ presents the Northern Irish trio (current guitarist Charlotte Hatherley had not yet joined the boys) at their most prolific moment in their songwriting careers. Opening with the brash and aggressive ‘Lose Control’, you’re already faced with a contradiction: the raw guitars versus Wheeler’s innocent whimsical vocal style, and ‘Goldfinger’ follows in a similar groove of epic Pop-Rock, defined by Rick McMurray’s powerful drumming.

Pre-2000, Ash were far from well-known. However, ‘1977’ has an abundance of recognisable tracks, y’know those songs you’ve heard and liked but never knew who they were by? Take for example ‘Girl From Mars’, their biggest hit from this album. Pure Power-Pop, it’s a bouncy, energetic love song. Sounds like a recipe for disaster á la Wheatus or The Rasmus. But it’s not. Similarly, ‘Oh Yeah’ and ‘Kung Fu’ have equal flair and sing-a-longability (if you don’t recognise the titles, you’ll recognise the songs), yet when these tracks are juxtaposed with the denser, more aggressive ‘I’d Give You Anything’ or ‘Innocent Smile’, ‘1977’ becomes more than just Pop-Rock album.

‘Angel Interceptor’ is another sparkly nugget of bouncy melody, backed up with simplistic yet effective guitars and beats whilst ‘Lost In You’ is the token ballad of the album. Wheeler’s earnest vocal tone gives the track a certain poignancy that has not previously been fully applied, giving ‘Lost In You’ stand-out track status. Closing the 62-minute album is ‘Darkside Lightside’ (no doubt another Star Wars reference), a glorious melange of energy and raucousness culminating in musical fireworks and saccharine vocal harmonies. Should you leave the album running for a further seven minutes, you’ll come across a rather bizarre recording of the three Irish lads pissing, puking and laughing. It continues for about six minutes, summing up Ash’s carefree, puerile nature perfectly.

Remember, three teenage boys wrote this album. If you want something deeply thought-provoking and mind-expanding, skip this. If you want a fun mish-mash to sing and dance to whilst cataloguing youthful experience with an apathy towards rules and conventions, this could be right up your street.

 – RED

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