Ash The A-Z Series

Ash The A-Z Series
7
In 2012, Northern Ireland's Ash celebrated 20 years of making "nu-clear sounds." During that run, they sold more than eight million records worldwide, including scoring a couple of number one albums (1977 and Free All Angels) in the UK. After dropping their final studio full-length in 2007, the band chose to re-evaluate how they would release music. And so, in 2009, they began the A – Z Series, an ambitious campaign to release 26 singles — one every two weeks over the span of a year. Recorded at their Atomic Heart Studio, the ambitious project allows the trio to push their power pop in new directions. What Ash do best is soaring melodies, gooey hooks and crunchy guitars, and there's plenty of each in the 26 tracks. In fact, there are a handful here that rival the best songs from their heyday. The standout "Arcadia" whooshes with spiralling intensity; "Pripyat" is Tim Wheeler emoting in fine form; "Dare To Dream" is a raw, catharsis-seeker; and "Embers" throws down with the punk-y passion of their earliest recordings. With such a collection, there's room for error and it's mostly the gambles that don't pay off — the new wave-isms of "Space Shot" and the disco/punked-out "Return of the White Rabbit" feel faddish and incompatible with the rest of the set. Released in Canada as a limited-edition triple-vinyl run (complete with digital bonuses) on Halifax's Noyes Records, A – Z demonstrates that 20 years on, Ash are holding strong. When they first emerged, Ash were rowdy teenagers writing noisy pop songs about young love, sci-fi flicks and having fun. In 2013, they may not have the same cachet, but they're still writing music worth obsessing over. How many bands can you think of still doing that two decades into their career? (Noyes)