Kablammo! by Ash (earMusic)
Since 1994 the Northern Irish trio of Tim Wheeler (vocals, guitar, synthesizers), Mark Hamilton (bass, synthesizer), and Rick McMurray (drums, backing vocals) have delivered breezy, guitar-driven power pop to the world. Albums like 2001’s Free All Angels and the heavier Meltdown from 2005 have been the perfect summer soundtrack for driving fast, playing at the beach and nights of fun and frolic. Vital as ever, Ash unleash yet another score to fun with Kablammo!.
Leading off with the psychedelic surf vibe of Cocoon, Wheeler and co. grab you by the ears with a super-catchy melody that will make you hit repeat repeat repeat. Let’s Ride grunges up the guitar jangle to accompany the pop and will get you blitzkrieg bopping. The speedy finger-tapping solo two minutes in is a welcome surprise as Wheeler is usually not that flashy a guitarist. On Machinery Wheeler sings in a lower register, adding some weight and romance to his vocals. On Free, the band plays slowly, Wheeler singing of his hesitance about breaking up, to be free, to be “honest and reckless” “once again a stranger I am free” as strings enter, the pace quickens and Wheeler’s voice rises with the possibilities of being a new person.
To break up the love songs, Ash get our blood pumping with the anthemic Go! Fight! Win!, sure to be played at every sports event from now on. Blown-speakers sounding organs and thundering and a children’s chorus yelling the song title, and towards the end there’s a bloozy guitar part that will knock your socks off. Instead of keeping up the rawk energy the band follow with the strings-heavy ballad Moondust. Still a good song, just a bit more sap than needed, though the guitar solo at the end almost makes up for it. The twangy guitars of short instrumental Evel Knievel captures the tension, excitement and drama of the motorcycle riding daredevil as he’s about to leap a canyon or river. On Dispatch Ash branch out a little, as Wheeler sings in his lower register, McMurray taps out a sneaky percussive message and Hamilton gets funky on bass, then the boys break out into arena rock mode, Wheeler raising his voice and wailing away on guitar. Ash bring it down on For Eternity. Wheeler sings high and clear, accompanied by piano strings and lightly strummed guitar, then turning it up, grabbing your heart, getting you misty, Wheeler singing about finding that one true love “You’re all I need.” Sigh.
Kablammo! comes to a sunny, breezy close with Bring Back The Summer, adding just a touch of wistfulness in the lilting vocals and sweeping strings, waves crashing on the beach as this summer soundtrack ends.
(by Bret Miller)