The first single I ever bought was Girl From Mars. I first heard it on the infamous blur vs oasis chart rundown on radio 1 in 1995. Being an oasis fanatic the loud guitar noise was enough to convince me.
The album which followed 1977 is a britpop masterpiece full of fizzy guitar hooks. However their festval appearances throughout 1996 made it apparent that a second guitar was needed. Enter the lovely Charlotte on second guitar and the somehow lovelier single A Life Less Ordinary in 1997.
The second album Nu Clear Sounds had some great tunes on it (Jesus Says, Wildsurf and the completely gorgeous Folk Song) but there was also a lot of mediocre material. They just about scraped the difficult second album test and then completely hit gold with their third LP Free All Angels.
The singles Shining Light and Burn Baby Burn were rightly hailed as superb but I’d nominate Sometimes as being just as great if not better.
Then… oh dear. Envy was the sound of a band coasting if ever I’ve heard it. I’ve never listened to the album Meltdown but what I did hear sounded very drab and not enticing at all. By the time they released Twilight Of The Innocents in 2007 no one cared anymore really.
Except that while they promoted that album they declared to the press that they weren’t interested in releasing traditional albums any more, just stand alone downloadable singles.
The grand concept unfolded throughout 2009. Ash would release a brand new song every fortnight until they had done one for every letter of the alphabet. This idea very much appealed to my OCD!
On my Facebook feed there were regular updates from Tim and the lads from their NYC studio. I didn’t download the singles on a fortnightly basis but as soon as the first half were compiled on A-Z vol. 1 I dutifully downloaded it.
It is the best thing Ash have done in ten years and I’d urge you to get it. It flows like a sort of Greatest Hits even if you’ve never heard the songs before. Arcadia sling shots you all around the stereo with it’s winning chorus, Dionysian Urge has one of those guitar motifs that Johnny Marr might come up with on a good day and War With Me brings the collection to a satisfying climax. There are some perfectly decent bonus tracks as well including the Radio 2 friendly Coming Around Again.
I have got Vol. 2 but it doesn’t quite inspire me in the same way. I keep promising myself that I’ll give it a chance though!