Ash are a strange beast. After the success of their album '1977' back in 1997, they went all a bit mental and released 'Nu Clear Sounds', which was nothing but a disappointing mishmash of ideas, from blazing rock to nu-metal ish scratching and screaming, it was patchy at best. Had its moments though, which can't be said about the follow up, the none-more-bland or inoffensive pop record that was 'Free All Angels'. And so, 2004 kicks off with 'Meltdown', a more straight-ahead rock record, harder than its predecessor, but never reaching the dizzy heights of the album that made them.
From the first couple of tracks here, it seems Ash have learned a lot from their experiences of making music before. Decamping to LA to record their new album, and hooking up Nick Raskulinecz, the man responsible for producing Foo Fighters and System of a Down, the Ash kids seem a lot more confident. After endless touring around the States, Ash came up with this more guitar based, rockier sound. Opener 'Meltdown', and singles 'Orpheus' and 'Clones' hint at the kind of balls to the wall riffage that they always knew they had in them. It's big, loud, and surprisingly melodic.
On 'Starcross'd', they hark back to the days when they were young kids lamenting about lost loves over a piano and acoustic guitar, but then follow up that with 'Out Of The Blue', a bollock breaking rock beast. I never thought that Ash would make an album as blatantly enjoyable as this one. To be honest, I hated both 'Clones' and 'Orpheus', I thought they were just boring bollocks, but on here, they don't seem to be that bad. Maybe I'm mellowing to this record I don't know, but there's something about it that really isn't that terrible. But let's not get ahead of ourselves, this is hardly 'Sgt. Pepper' remixed by Radiohead and Frank Zappa, more like Dave Grohl's wet dream about how the Foo Fighters should sound, instead of his piss weak turned down rock he churns out now.
The melodies of 'Renegade Cavalcade' and 'Evil Eye' will have you nodding along and enjoying yourself. This is the soundtrack to a thousand house parties, a thousand indie/rock clubs and a thousand teenagers' bedrooms. It's weird, Ash became the joke of the whole rock community when 'Free All Angels' was sharing billing with the manufactured cack that they were once trying to battle against. Now, however, they seem invigorated by rock music, trying to smash a hole through the pop charts, let alone sit in it. Forget 'Free All Angels', this is pretty good. Not mind blowing, but decent background music at the very least.