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Classic Album Review: Ash | Free All Angels

The Irish pop-punks' fantastic fourth full-length justifies months of pre-release hype.

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This came out in 2002 – or at least that’s when I got it. Here’s what I said about it back then (with some minor editing):

 


With their usual gift for restraint and understatment, the U.K. music press have been salivating over this fourth disc by Irish pop-punks Ash since it was released overseas last year. And as usual, there is a nugget of truth buried somewhere deep beneath all the hyperbole and hosannas.

Free All Angels is indeed mighty impressive. Mainly because it’s an ambitious, artful, mostly grownup album. Occupying a midpoint between the snarling punk immaturity of 1977 and the sulking moodiness of Nu-Clear Sounds, these 13 cuts showcase a new, more mature Ash — one anchored by singer-guitarist Tim Wheeler’s power-pop songcraft and fuelled by the band’s everyman grit. When those factors meet headlong — as they do in gorgeous gems like the urgently jangling poppers Walking Barefoot and Sometimes, the melodic post-grungers Cherry Bomb, Nicole and Burn Baby Burn and even the Cheap Trick-with-strings ballads Candy and There’s A Star — they make you see why the album has been accumulating awards over the pond. Granted, on these shores, Free All Angels probably won’t go down as album of the decade or even the year. But with any luck, it’ll be viewed in its proper context: As a confident, sure-footed step forward by a band that could be on the road to greatness.