Monday, 15 June 2015

Review: Ash - Kablammo! [2015]

   "Ash?" you say? Yes, Ash. Anyone remember them? During the 90s, the three-piece were known for hits such as Kung Fu, Girl From Mars, Goldfinger and Oh Yeah! from the album 1977 (from 1996), all of which were songs that made me, at about the age of 9/10, think that they were one of the coolest bands ever. It wasn't until the album Meltdown (2004) that the band garnered success with singles such as Shining Light and Burn, Baby, Burn. New album Kablammo! is the band's first full length since 2007's Twilight of The Innocents, the first album released as a trio after the departure of guitarist Charlotte Hatherley. Somehow, both that album and 2012's Little Infinity EP completely passed me by.

   Upon hearing the thunderous drum intro to Ash's first single Cocoon (also the album opener), they now had my full attention again; it is an absolute return to form. A slight nod to punkier hits such as Kung Fu, Burn, Baby Burn and even A Life Less Ordinary (from the movie of the same name), the chorus will have you sweetly singing "COCOOOON" along with frontman Tim Wheeler in the chorus. Shutdown (track 10), like Cocoon, is reminiscent of  the band's more 'full throttle' material, where songs like Let's Ride (track 2) and Hedonism (track 8, not a Skunk Anansie cover) still rock out yet have a more commercially acceptable quality to them. (On a side-note, the latter's intro reminds me of the title music to a franchise of British adult movies. I'll say no more.) Machinery (track 3) is also fast paced, but has elegant strings and warm vocals that give the song a Manic Street Preachers type feel. 
   The band's softer side, as seen at different stages throughout their career, is still present on this album. Free (track 4) beautifully rumbles away, Moondust (track 6) is a heartfelt orchestral masterpiece and For Eternity (track 11) is essentially Robbie Williams' hit She's The One in some form of alternate universe. 
   As good as the aforementioned tracks are (specifically Cocoon, Let's Ride, Moondust and Hedonism), stand out track on this record is undoubtably Go! Fight! Win! (track 5). Going in the same thumping vein as Envy (the only new song from the Intergalactic Sonic 7"s compilation), the whole song felt like a salute to rock and roll revival bands like Rocket From The Crypt (I can't really think of any others, to be honest). Not only does it have the thumping drumming, but it has a heavy guitar riff, organ hits, a bouncy chorus and... cheerleaders! It is definitely the most rock and roll on this album and possibly the most rock and roll track they have ever done. What would have made it even more impressive for me would have been a brass section, although then it would REALLY sound like RFTC. 

   Kablammo! is an easy album to listen to from start to finish. There's a hint of that "Spaghetti Western" sound hidden in there which I'm not really a fan of, but the album is nevertheless an interesting collection. The slower songs may bore some people and the rockier ones might not be everyone's cup of tea, but this is definitely an impressive album for a band whom many have seemed to have left behind. They still know how to pen a song and are not afraid to show that, even as a rock band initially, they have the essence of pop within them. Cocoon even has a bloody key change. Who still does key changes anymore? 
I'm hoping this gives them equal success to that of Meltdown from over ten years ago. 


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