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Ash - Free All Angels Album Cover
Author's Rating
Vocals 8
Musicianship 8.25
Lyrics 5.5
Production 9
Creativity 8
Lasting Value 9.75
Reviewer Tilt 9.5
Final Verdict: 83%
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Inside AP.net

Ash - Free All Angels

Reviewed by: Steve Henderson (01/27/07)
Ash - Free All Angels
Release Date: 7/25/2002
Record Label: Kinetic Records


I am sure that everyone can think of at least a handful of bands that are just massive over in Europe, but for some reason have failed to garner the same levels of acclaim on this side of the pond. Immediately, names like Idlewild, Fightstar, and the like rush to mind, but there are indeed countless others. In reality, any such list would now be incomplete without Ash, a group of young, good-looking Irish kids that seem all but ready to take the states by storm.

To be accurate, the slow simmer buzz building behind Ash has been there for many years now, as band faithful have waited patiently for the band to break over here. It didn't happen with 1977, it didn't happen with Nu-Clear Sounds. So what would it take? Surely, the band needed to up the ante and drop out some of the most notable numbers of its career to break into the American Top 40. So, what exactly did Ash do? They released one of the most stirring, sunny, genre-defining types of records that most bands would kill to have written themselves. The only question remaining was how it would be received over here. For whatever reason, however, it didn't catch as much as anyone expected it would. Let it be known, though, it is for reasons that surely cannot point to the music or supply of accessible singles. Such is certainly not the case.

Free All Angels is summer pop at its finest - plain and simple. Along with that statement, though, it bears mentioning that in this assertion, the fact that the record is not made for American audiences becomes plain to see. Rather than relying on hyper-production to create cubic zirconia harmonies, Ash nurtures their entire songs with a sharp focus on melody, and creates a very inviting, yet organic soundscape that sounds pleasant rather than fake. This type of songwriting is clearly expressed in the rousing opener, "Walking Barefoot," which peels back its decidedly punky verse structure to reveal a powdered-sugar chaser chorus. But as stated before, the exclamations here are quite subversive, with Timothy Wheeler's everyman croon sounding both unimpressive and wholly refreshing at once. Similar sentiments hold true on "Shining Light," which is a tidy little pop number almost elementary in its simplicity, but still demonic in its infectiousness. The slow ramp-in gets its doors blown off, though, when the anthemic sparkle of "Burn Baby Burn" rolls in and blisters into a full-force assault on the most embedded of shoulder-chips. With Wheeler's urgent, charming delivery blended perfectly into his and Charlotte Hatherley's guitar dazzle and Rick McMurray's drum crackles, the end result is the type of pop keystone that bands spend lifetimes trying to foster. For Ash, it took less than a decade.

From there, the record loses a smidge of its focus, jumping all over the map from the sample-heavy, showtune-y "Candy" to the stringy wistfulness of "Someday." Yet again, though, Ash ascends into pop arena greatness with the "Sometimes," which recalls shadows of Oasis in its finest hour, with a fragile yet earnest beauty that is so casually exercised off the cuff it is downright scary. However, for the remainder of the record, Wheeler seems determined to get in touch with his Irish rock and young metal roots, stumbling awkwardly along the awkward "Cherry Bomb" and the annoying "Submission" among a few other tripwires. These low points are scattered enough, though, to not hurt the record's best, nor does it much damage the work as a whole.

When the disc stops its siren song, there is perhaps no stronger case to be made for Ash as an uncontestable pop success. While they might not have struck gold here in the states just yet, it can't be said that they didn't at least try. Free All Angels is exactly what the pop fan in all of us craves. Breezy vocal delivery, energetic instrumentation, and themes that hearken back to a simpler time in all of our lives. Yes, the lyrics are almost embarrassingly simple, but when the pop is this fizzy, it doesn't really matter. Sit back, toss this record on, and feel the sunshine on your face.


Recommended if you like: Idlewild, Third Eye Blind, Jimmy Eat World, The Buzzcocks
 
Displaying posts 1 - 15 of 25.
11:26 AM on 01/27/07
#2
halfwayXthere
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Awww this album is sooooo good. I remember picking it up a week or so after it came out on a whim. The DVD that came with it was Ace, too. It had sooo much stuff on it.
11:29 AM on 01/27/07
#3
ThisIsNotDan
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i love this band, but man, the lyrics could be alot better.
11:34 AM on 01/27/07
#4
Tony Pascarella
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One of my favorite pop-punk albums out there.

I'll get the next review up next week.
11:38 AM on 01/27/07
#5
Steve Henderson
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Awww this album is sooooo good. I remember picking it up a week or so after it came out on a whim. The DVD that came with it was Ace, too. It had sooo much stuff on it.
The DVD gave me a man-crush on Tim Wheeler
11:41 AM on 01/27/07
#6
thebestkylever
girls like status.
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well i definately didn't see a review of that coming. well done men dudes.
11:44 AM on 01/27/07
#7
Steve Henderson
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well i definately didn't see a review of that coming. well done men dudes.
It was a really cool idea that just came from their mgmt. They emailed us and said "can we send you Ash's discography to review?" Tony and I said fuck yes. :) I am going to review Meltdown next week or so.
12:23 PM on 01/27/07
#8
(joeyman)
...is a real pirate.
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i used to love "burn baby burn". such a good pop song.
12:27 PM on 01/27/07
#9
Mediocrity
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Charlotte's gone now; I fear for the worst.

I'm more interested in your Meltdown review, since it was a semi-polarising album
12:30 PM on 01/27/07
Steve Henderson
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Charlotte's gone now; I fear for the worst.

I'm more interested in your Meltdown review, since it was a semi-polarising album
The better songs on Meltdown were not as good as FAA, but the album as a whole is still really solid, IMO. Not perfect, but a lot better than most shit out there :)
12:44 PM on 01/27/07
Jonathan London
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Yeah. Who here thinks this is their best album too?
01:29 PM on 01/27/07
deja andyroo
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I thought Meltdown was better than FAA back around when it came out, but I'm not so sure now.

I haven't been listening to Ash in a while, but I'm sure I'll get back into the old stuff once some new stuff hits.
01:35 PM on 01/27/07
thebestkylever
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It was a really cool idea that just came from their mgmt. They emailed us and said "can we send you Ash's discography to review?" Tony and I said fuck yes. :) I am going to review Meltdown next week or so.

that is awesome, as is the dvd. tim playing girl from mars acoustic in roswell is fucking glory.

edit: any chance of you throwing something together for 1977?
01:39 PM on 01/27/07
Steve Henderson
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that is awesome, as is the dvd. tim playing girl from mars acoustic in roswell is fucking glory.

edit: any chance of you throwing something together for 1977?
I think Tony is going to be reviewing that one.
05:32 PM on 01/27/07
Mediocrity
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I'm looking forward to the rightful slurring of Nu-Clear Sounds. Well, the English version was pretty rubbish...Aphrodite was used in the Road Trip soundtrack. But the American import has A Life Less Ordinary on it, which is about ten times better than the actual film.

Point about Meltdown:

#1: Starcrossed is a blatant rewriting of Shining Light
#2: Renegade Cavalcade is about as sick as pop-punk gets
#3: Clones is nothing like Slipknot, as some lazy journalists have compared it to
#4: The Meltdown tour in the UK was with Saves the Day
#5: Vampire Love is Tim's - and my - favourite song on the album
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