Free All Angels album reviewPublished: April, 2001
To re-cap: Irish; led by foxsome pin-up Tim Wheeler; early gigs were like watching a baby Dinosaur Jr; songs about martial arts, planets, girls and summer; first album 1977 tops chart and band set off on the Lost Highway of Rock, taking a wrong turn and ending up at the Service Station of The Over-shandied.
Second album Nu-Clear Sounds, with new accomplice Charlotte on board, saw the band falling into a lake of vodka, rock and rum hair with subject matter orbiting around the spheres of Jesus, surfing and saucy sex, it looked like the band were becoming a bad Mary Chain. Oh dear. It looked like the Ash story was gonna end messily.
Forward to 2001, and it’s like there’s been a rebirth. Forgotten now are the porn frolics and heroin-for-breakfast type shenanigans, instead there’s the vaguely religious stormer “Shining Light”, followed by the even acer “Burn Baby Burn”. It’s looking good (except maybe perhaps drummer Rick’s hair) so people, prepare to go spare at Ash’s return to form as Free All Angels is the sound of a band back on swaggersome pop-punkin’ duty.
It kicks off with “Walking Barefoot”, and immediately you’re nostalgic for a summer when all that mattered was being in love and wearing a nice t-shirt, staring hand in hand into the hazy, sandy distance. “Candy” is a thing of great beauty, using a sample of the Walker Brothers’ “Make It Easy On Yourself” to create a sweepsome, Still Dre-style swooner, sounding a bit like Christmas, whilst “Someday” has a cute Bolan feel and “Submission” rattles along in a sub-Mondays grunge-up.
Every track here has the possibility of being a single, even the heavier “Sometimes” fails to hide its pop, “Nicole”, even, a tale of murder is a completely cheery head-nod. The Bond-y “There’s a Star” is a little wet lather about stars, y’know, in the night sky, which is already redundant after the similar and better “Shining Light”, but grumbling about this is like moaning about having too much fun.
On Free All Angels, Tim and pals have managed to grow up cool, reclaim their territory and dismantle false rock all at the same time. Fantastic!.