Updated: Sep 22, 2022
We all have bands who enter our lives at a certain moment, who we instantly fall in love with and remain committed to for the rest of our lives. Bands that enable us to fully embrace life and live in the moment. Bands that make us nostalgic for the past whilst excited for the future at the same time. For me Ash certainly falls in to that category. I was 16 when Ash released their mini album Trailer, now 28 years later my life has changed a great deal and Ash have been present through many of these big life moments. That transition to adulthood, nights out with friends, falling in love, having a family. Life changes and responsibilities arrive however music and bands like Ash provide consistency and whether you are 16 or 44 listening to this band always makes me feel that anything is possible.
I always remember John Peel talking about his love and passion for Teenage Kicks by The Undertones and how this was his favourite song of all time. When I think of Ash I am always drawn to these comments by John Peel and for me Girl From Mars is probably my version of ‘Teenage Kicks’. Girl From Mars is the perfect pop song. Tim was 16 when her wrote this song, and it captures perfectly what it is like to be a 16-year-old boy. Whenever I listen to that song all the troubles in this world instantly disappear, pop music has always had the power to do this and Girl From Mars is quite simply the perfect pop song.
Why am I writing this article, and declaring my undying love for this wonderful band from Northern Ireland? Well, in case you haven’t noticed there is a re-release of the band’s third full length album ‘Free All Angels’ hitting the shelves. After reading the first two paragraphs I am sure it will come as no surprise to you to hear how much I love ‘Free All Angels’. If you can think of a more powerful word than perfect, then please insert it here as that really would sum up how great I think this album is. There was a lot of pressure on Ash at the time of this release, as the second full length album Nu Clear Sounds did not have the same success as 1977. Tim, Rick, Mark and Charlotte obviously weren’t overly concerned with the pressure as they knew how great they are as a band, their ability to put together songs and to perform as a band always comes across as so natural and easy. It is interesting to think about the word success when it comes to music. We all read reviews, articles, listen to music and form opinions and views but what is success? Is it selling millions of records, it shouldn’t be.
I think that is the approach that Ash have always taken, they have always been confident in their own abilities, confident in who they are, have a belief and determination in the music that they write and put it out their knowing that it will resonate with people, it will find a place in people’s lives.
It is hard to believe that 21 years have passed since Free All Angels was first released. As Tim sings on Sometimes “Whole years are lost in the blink of an eye”, life really does feel like that, and time just drifts by. I have listened to Free All Angels a lot over those 21 years, so it feels a bit disingenuous to say the album feels as fresh now as it did on the day it came out but it really does, this is one of those timeless albums that manages to not age whilst at the same time feels as relevant today as it did on the day of release. The album manages to combine exhilarating pop songs: Burn Baby Burn, Shark, World Domination with some beautiful, tender moments: Shining Light, Candy, Someday, Sometimes, and Walking Barefoot.
To sum up Free All Angels I don’t think it would be an overstatement to say that it was one of the most important albums since Definitely Maybe. It reminded us all as we were entering a new decade that there were bands left over from the ‘Brit Pop’ era that still mattered, bands that still cared, bands that would continue to deliver great albums, bands that would never let us down. Ash certainly have never let us down.
I am sure I am not alone in these feelings towards Ash as a band and Free All Angels as an album. This article is for all of us that have loved Ash for a lifetime to feel nostalgic, whilst at the same time this article is hoping to capture the heart and mind of at least one person who may read this and discover Ash for the first time through Free All Angels. If you are someone that is new to Ash I am so envious of you as you are about to have your life changed.