Under the Radar’s 15th Anniversary: Ash’s “Free All Angels”
Celebrating Under the Radar's 15th Anniversary and the Best Albums of 2001
Jan 04, 2017 Web Exclusive
Under the Radar's very first print issue came out in December 2001. In honor of our 15th Anniversary some of our writers are reflecting on some of their favorite albums (and movies and TV shows) from 2001.
After their 1998 sophomore album Nu-Clear Sounds, Ash were on the ropes. Though the album was eventually certified gold in their native U.K., it wasn't as much of a success either commercially or critically as their debut album 1977 had been and the band was bankrupt. So guitarist/vocalist Tim Wheeler isolated himself in his parents' house in Northern Ireland and wrote the bulk of their follow-up album, Free All Angels, there with parts recorded in Van Morrison's old studio in the southwestern English city of Bath. The result was Ash's undisputed masterpiece and the album that's ensured that they've had a career since then (though nothing they've done since then has come close to matching it). A #1 smash in their native U.K., it produced no less than four hit singles ("Cherry Bomb," "Burn Baby Burn," "Shining Light," and "Sometimes" all charted), but here was a case where quality matched sales. It's rare for music so heavy and obviously indebted to both '70s punk and '90s alternative rock to be so infectiously catchy and for it to feel light as air, yet Ash managed this track with what sounds like relative ease. The twin guitars of Wheeler and then new member Charlotte Hatherley (her debut was on Nu-Clear Sounds) buzz and lock in for all 48 minutes of this pop-punk masterpiece. Sure, there's a bit of filler here (here it's "Nicole," about the murdered wife of OJ Simpson) as was common during the CD era, but if "Pacific Palisades" doesn't make you wanna take a ride down the PCH with the top down or if "Sometimes" doesn't make you reminisce about that special someone who got away, well you might have just have to check your pulse.
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