Recommended If You Like: Blur, Pavement, The Buzzcocks, Weezer, Oasis, Hurricane #1
“Irish punk-pop trio Ash first formed in 1989 when childhood mates Tim Wheeler and Mark Hamilton got guitars for Christmas and established the metal act Vietnam. Nothing more than something for kicks, Vietnam switched to Ash in 1992 as Wheeler (guitar/vocals), Hamilton (bass), and Rick “Rock” McMurray (drums) aimed to be something more serious. They shared a love for the raw British punk of the Buzzcocks and crafted their musical talents to take the Brit-pop scene by storm at the start of the decade. NME was swooning over these “teen punkers from Belfast,” and by 1994 Ash had signed to Infectious Records to issue the Trailer EP later that fall.
Their glossy youth was undoubtedly alluring, yet their Irish roots exuded a bit of an American flair similar to the likes of Pavement and the Lemonheads. They weren’t even out of high school before three singles hit the Top Five in the U.K. indie charts. A year later marked Ash’s full-length debut with 1977 and a deal with Reprise Records in the U.S. Named in honor of the year Star Wars was released, 1977 displayed Wheeler and Hamilton’s full-fledged love for all things extraterrestrial and science fiction-related. Sharp guitar hooks and exact production work by Owen Morris (Oasis, New Order, Paul Weller) gained the bandmembers the fame they’d been wishing for since childhood. They were headlining major festivals — T in the Park, Glastonbury, Roskilde, and Reading — and playing countless club dates across the globe. In fall 1997, female guitarist Charlotte Hatherley was added to the all-male lineup, a definite change for the band’s sound and image and a step that led Ash’s fan base to expand into more of what the band had been looking for since the beginning.
With a new bandmate and the end of their teenage years, Ash welcomed anything that came their way. The late ’90s marked a maturation for Ash as a unit as well as individually. Their sound featured heavier guitars while Wheeler’s lyrical content experienced a much grittier shift. Their sophomore effort, Nu-Clear Sounds (1998), had Garbage’s Butch Vig (Smashing Pumpkins, Nirvana) at the mixing board, and it wasn’t necessarily their finest moment. NME turned on the band, criticizing Ash’s new sound as “terrifying, ghoulrawk thrashnik deathcore noiseterrior sultans of satanic verse” in August 1998. Harsh words and reviews didn’t distract Ash, however. Free All Angels followed in April 2001, although it didn’t even see a U.S. release until the following summer. Meltdown, the band’s first stateside release for Record Collection, arrived in spring 2005. A year later, and after nine years with Ash, Charlotte Hatherley announced her departure from the band. In 2007 the group released Twilight of the Innocents, the album they claimed would be their last. Interestingly, however, they also assured their fans that they were not breaking up; instead, they would only release singles in response to consumer trends. -by MacKenzie Wilson”