Ash : Intergalactic Sonic 7″s

Best of irrepressible Irish indie pop titans...

The Manga artwork for Ash‘s greatest hits album says it all – at once heroically clueless and unspeakably cool, their clumsy cartoon image has masked the fact that Ash are one of the most three-dimensionally brilliant groups of the modern age.

There is no better way to understand quite what they do so well than with this lavishly presented package of singles. There is no other group who have taken on the mantle of the great singles bands of yore – the Buzzcocks, the Undertones, the Specials, the Teardrop Explodes, the Jam, the Smiths – in quite the same jubilant manner as Tim Wheeler’s crack pop battallion.

With Ash, understatement has never been an issue. Neither big city hipsters nor Face-friendly style icons, the secret of Ash‘s success seems to be – in classic teen pop style – that they always acted like they were only as good as their last single. Nineties Swedish hitmakers Roxette called their greatest hits album ‘Don’t Bore Us… Get To The Chorus’, unwittingly summing up the Ash approach in one succinct soundbite.

Dumped inappropriately into the Britpop soup on their first forays to the capital, there was always the feint whiff of a novelty act about them. After all, as their debut album ‘1977’ – the year that all three founder members were born – proudly stated, they were barely out of short trousers by the time they were coming up with unforgiveably brilliant singles like their debut ‘Jack Names The Planets’, the dimbo classic ‘Kung Fu’ and their first legit hit, ‘Girl From Mars’.

However, where fellow teenagers Symposium died a horrible death, Ash have emerged triumphant because they never lost that unselfconscious quality or their ability to twist their high velocity passion for pop into a stream of great singles. The track order on ‘Intergalactic Sonic 7″s’ completely disregards chronology, just to underline the fact that, indie-fox bass players and painstakingly acquired hard-drinking reputations aside, the Ash of 1994 is pretty much the same one as produced 2001’s ‘Shining Light’ and ‘Burn Baby Burn’ – by common consent two of the finest pop singles of the century.

As if the freebie B-sides CD available with the first edition of ‘Intergalactic Sonic 7″s’ were not enough, the loyalty bonus here is new single ‘Envy’ which is every bit as explosive as the magnificent ‘Angel Interceptor’ and the overlooked ‘Wildsurf’.

No manifestos, no concessions to fashion, Ash are the provincial no-marks Star Wars squares who took on the cool-cats of the capital and won on their own terms. “Yeah, death is your fate”, sings Wheeler on ‘Numbskull’, the final track, sounding approximately 2000 times more punk rock than a weedy little County Down whelp really ought to. “Come along for the ride.” You won’t get a better invitation.

Jim Wirth