Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Irish Albums of the Decade: 1 - Ash - Free All Angels (2001)

When Ash followed up their wildly successful debut 1977 with the dreary dirges and second-rate Stooges imitations of Nu-Clear Sounds, many feared that the young Downpatrick band had burned out too soon. Main songwriter Tim Wheeler went to ground for a while as he tried to get back in touch with his inner mojo, and the band brought it all back home by deciding to write and record in the same garage where they had made their first steps.

The result was the triumphant Free All Angels, which recaptured the wide-eyed punk-pop vibe (see the bittersweet summertime homage of ‘Walking Barefoot’ or the irrepressible‘Burn Baby Burn’) that first marked them out, while adding a vital dose of maturity (the sublime ‘Sometimes’ perfectly captures the sadness of a break-up with minimum self-pity) and world-weariness (the Spectoresque ‘Someday’) along with some pleasing curveballs (‘Candy’ samples The Walker Brothers to superb effect). ‘Shining Light’ landed Wheeler an Ivor Novello award, and was later covered by Canadian artist Emm Gryner, who threw the song’s classic pop melody into even sharper relief. The album went straight in at number 1, dislodging Janet Jackson: it prompted drummer Rick McMurray to ring her record label and leave his own version of Outkast’s ‘I’m sorry Miss Jackson’ on their answering machine. Good times.

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