Ash : Free All Angels

Ash return to reclaim their scuzzrock crown with pretty-bloody-good-actually new album...

CRASH! SMASH! Ash! Thank goodness you're here! There's four men calling themselves Starsailor and they've kidnapped rock and are holed up in that press fortress threatening to slice off its testicles and teach it more Waterboys songs unless they get a helicopter into the Top Five and 53 front covers proclaiming them "better than Buckley" by sundown! This sounds like a job for SUPERWHEELER!

Phew, what a cliffhanger. We were convinced that our favourite buzzpop heroes Ash had perished under that landslide of sunglasses and Jesus And Mary Chain records on '98's 'Nu-Clear Sounds' but, at the very last minute, they've come to their senses, donned their famous silly haircuts and raced to rescue rock from the evil clutches of the demon Dadrock! Faster than a speeding Feeder! Janglier than a hundred King Adoras! More tuneful than a barbieful of Beach Boys! Back to restore euphoric guitar pop to its rightful place in the lower reaches of the Top Ten for one week, then out! Huzzah!

"My heart beats fast like Benzedrine/ Every time that she walks by" sings Tim Wheeler on 'Cherry Bomb' and instantly it's business-even-better-than-usual. As resurrections go, 'Free All Angels' makes Lazarus look like Crossroads: a shifting vista of Disney-esque crescendos, growling rock rotweilers and more hits than www.davidgraycastrationvid.com. You already know 'Shining Light' and 'Burn Baby Burn' - both textbook lessons in finding the G spot on a guitar. But you should brace yourself for a rigorous seeing-to from the highway-cruisin' 'Walking Barefoot', the Bond theme on a donkey that is 'There's A Star' or the massive orchestral 'Someday' which, if it hasn't been half-inched from a big budget West End musical then one is currently being written around it. Frankly, there hasn't been a more consistently electrifying rock album since they wired 'Definitely Maybe' to the National Grid.

Smart kid, 'Tiny' Tim Wheeler. Pictured bathing in vodka on the back sleeve, he knows that rock music ain't rocket science, and neither is it a dour lecture on embalming. He knows you can write a freewheeling summertime beach party hit that namechecks Sharon Tate ('Pacific Palisades'), drop in a fonkeh Black Grape-style ode to S&M complete with bongos ('Submission') or have a ruddy great Lemonheads moment hat without any need to apologise ('Sometimes'). The charm of 'Free All Angels' is its complete lack of limitations, its rampant ecleticism, its raising of the indie sightline above the sleeves of 'OK Computer' and 'Grace'.

But of course, it's hip-hoppin' 2001 and you're all too into Eve to bother with boring old scuzzrock any more. Well hey, liddle Timmy's written a song for you lot too! It's a bloody-toothed punka racket called 'World Domination', it's where he's headed and here's a portion of his dust for your consumption. KAPOW!

Mark Beaumont
8 / 10

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