All The Pain Money Can Buy

...Ash: talk like your daft wee brother, rock like muthas....

“[I]WE DON’T REALLY WANNA kill ourselves[/I],” Ash drummer Rick McMurray has mused, hungoverly, “[I]we just pretend we do. [/I]”

One year after the one-year break after the two-year bender of booze, breakdowns, broken bones and bust-ups that left Ash almost scuppering their future forever, they finally bring us their second LP, the follow-up to 1996’s ‘1977’. And there’s nothing, it seems, like a bit of feet-up and an added member to let the pretend suicidal flavour flood out.

Because this time, Ash, good God, have turned into terrifying ghoulrawk thrashnik, deathcore noiseterror sultans of satanic verse… Coal Chamber. Or whichever of that scary lot are the very scariest.

Ash, it’s now thunderingly obvious, don’t give no shit about ‘the times’ – the past, future or anything other than what takes their fancy at the time of asking – and have brought us an exercise in sonic courage which would kick the weedsome butts off Embrace and the like, if they had any butts to kick in the first place.

And the fact that a couple of these ‘tunes’ are completely unlistenable to anyone over the age of 15 who has any interest outside metalhawk action and vomiting into their billowing skatepunk pantaloons made out of whales or off their rockers on 15 pints of amyl nitrate, only serve to make ‘Nu-Clear Sounds’ the very first ‘mainstream’ rock’n’roll record of 1998 to do its job properly. Which is to say, rattle the tea trays off mum and dad’s lap and have them balling upstairs (if they come, like Ash, from Northern Ireland), “[I]Turn that bloody racket doyne! Noi! [/I]”

Thus ‘Projects’, the opener, sounds just like that; a terrifying provincial housing estate, possibly Glasgow’s Easterhouse, and should see off the tra-la-la Harmony hairspray mob from the outset. Then there’s ‘Death Trip 21’, which is a great big dirty bastard of a sheep-shagging geekcore howler from Hades. How about ‘Numbskull’? It begins with Tim screaming his curdled head off in a not insubstantial impersonation of Mistah Henry Rollins, barking on about “[I]never finding happiness[/I]” by which time ‘the dibble’ are twitching outside your bedroom window.

Not forgetting ‘Fortune Teller’, another bastard rock bonanza of sneerpunk venom, where Tim ‘sings’ like Iggy Pop when The Stooges were at their greatest and you get to thinking something really clever is happening here. Because this is an album of spirit not seen since the days before the world went ’60s berzerk and forget all about the real olden days of the punk rock generation, ie Noo Yawk Noo Wave 1976. Hence the single, the swagger-hipped sex-gonk filth machine in leather trews that is ‘Jesus Says’ sounds just like New York Dolls; the sort of record Primal Scream made ‘Rocks’ in the image of.

What’s most intriguing, however, is threaded straight through the middle of this lot. Some of the most beautiful vignettes the canny pen of tiny Tim Wheeler has ever concocted. “[I]Feel like your life is ebbing away[/I]”, drools Tim gorgeously on ‘Low Ebb’, wobbly rawk melancholy at its finest. As is the dreamsome ‘I’m Gonna Fall’ and ‘Folk Song’, which has New Order bits in, stringy atmospherics and even more death, this time, “[I]springtime slipping away, heaven slipping away[/I]”. It’s ruddy fantastic.

And ‘Aphrodite’ glimmers like a rock Ronettes, Tim cooing, “[I]I don’t know about much, baby, all I know about is desire, baby[/I]”. Blub.

Oh, and ‘Burn Out’, which is as near as they get to the cheery pop Ash of old, and ‘Wildsurf’, which sounds like a frill-free demo from the 1970s by a bunch of speed freaks from San Francisco.

That Ash nearly ‘died’ in their globe-busting ‘Girl From Mars’/’Kung Fu’ heyday, makes the musical life thundering out of this record all the more buoyant to behold. They wore their waftalot summertime pop lark well, and now they’ve had enough of it; welcome to the winter wardrobe – one that’s ‘all the rage’ this season with anyone who’s anyone in the crash ‘n’ burn clinic of the crooked soul.

Ash: talk like your daft wee brother, rock like muthas.