My Audition for Spin, Part 4
Ash - Meltdown
While Northern Ireland's Ash are not very well-known in the United States, they've been quite popular in the UK and Europe over the past decade. Now, with their fourth album, "Meltdown", they find themselves with yet another chance to make a dent stateside. To that end, they've enlisted Foo Fighters/System of a Down producer Nick Raskulinecaz, and the difference in their sound is immediately obvious. Raskulinecaz has thickened up Ash's guitar sound considerably, giving their riffs a more metallic crunch, and this heavier approach appears to have inspired a long-overdue sonic unification. Previous Ash albums have been uneven affairs, characterized by jarring transitions between catchy singles, such as "Girl From Mars," "A Life Less Ordinary," and "Walking Barefoot"; and rather mediocre excursions into heavier realms. While the singles were always worth the price of admission, things faltered when they went too far into the realm of bombastic metal.
This problem has been solved on "Meltdown"; with production creating a uniformly heavy sound, Ash’s metal cravings are appeased enough to allow them to stick with the punk-pop hooks, descended from late 70s pioneers The Buzzcocks and The Undertones, that are their true strength. The first single, "Orpheus", is a particular standout. It starts with a heavy introduction, but by the chorus, things have reached sugary pop nirvana. "Clones" and the title track concentrate on hitting hard, while "Out of the Blue" and "Won't Be Saved" focus more on the catchy end of things, but every song on the record features at least one blissfully pure power-pop hook, and the whole album flows by in a seamless combination of what had previously been irreconcilable extremes. Hopefully, this step up in songwriting quality will be the key to finally gaining Ash some recognition here in America. They deserve no less.