Album review: Ash – Race The Night

No longer ‘guaranteed authentic teenagers’, Northern Irish legends Ash rev their engines once again on brilliant eighth album.

Album review: Ash – Race The Night
James Hickie

It's easy to forget that Ash released their debut album, 1977, more than a quarter of a century ago. Not simply because of how youthful singer-songwriter/guitarist Tim Wheeler still appears, but how remarkably consistent the Downpatrick stalwarts remain. Race The Night is another excellent entry in that discography and, in places, their most rocking effort since 2004’s Meltdown. But while that previous effort was brasher in its approach, Race The Night is a sleeker and more adaptable vehicle.

There are heavy moments here, sure, but they differ wildly in their approach. Some, like the Weezer-esque Reward In Mind and Peanut Brain, arrive with their dynamic moments swathed in flamboyant clothing. Others, such as Like A God, dispense with the sheen and go straight for the gut, powered in no small part by a guitar tone that would have Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan throwing the horns. The track is so good, in fact, that it gets a rabid reprise at the end of the record.

This being Ash, there are of course quieter moments of contemplation. Oslo, a duet with Dutch singer-songwriter Démira, is a reminder of the trio’s long-standing way with a ballad, but also a deft paean to the impulsiveness of youthful romance. In the lyric ‘I’m going through a sea change’, it also reflects the evolution that Ash have gone through for almost 30 years, steadily building upon their sound rather than constantly reinventing it, all while retaining an exceptional ear for melodies.

Very occasionally, such as during the first half of the otherwise excellent Crashed Out Wasted, that compulsion to pour honey in our ears can lead to a little too much saccharine. But on the whole, Race The Night is a journey worth taking, deftly hitting all of the touchpoints that make Ash such a special band.

Verdict: 3/5

For fans of: Foo Fighters, Weezer, Feeder

Race The Night is out now via Fierce Panda

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