Northern Ireland’s indie rockers Ash have been making music together and touring for an incredible 31 years. Releasing their debut album ‘1977’ in 1996, the band consistently put out music during their early years and then the album releases became more sporadic post 2007’s ‘Twilight of the Innocents’. Their last album, ‘Islands’, was released in 2018 and it the band achieved their best chart position in 14 years. Five years on from that record, and Ash is ready to unleash new album ‘Race the Night’, reuniting with their early label home Fierce Panda.
‘Race the Night’ is the band’s eighth studio record and it was meant to come out much sooner. Ash had intended to follow-up ‘Islands’ fairly quickly but then the pandemic hit and they were out of action for two years. Listening to the new record, it feels like they’ve never been away. Always known for their high-energy blend of indie-rock, Ash come out of the gates swinging with opening track, and title track, ‘Race the Night’. The foot-stomping number is a storming opener that breezes by with a sense of infectious urgency. Building on that opener, second track ‘Usual Places’ cranks up the electric guitars as frontman Wheeler laments on how time changes and the people and places around us change.
On ‘Oslo’ the band slows things down a little and enlists Dutch singer Démira. An acoustic melody backs Wheeler’s voice in the opening verse as he ponders about moving away and starting a new relationship. It’s a moment’s reprieve in an otherwise up-tempo and bombastic record. ‘Like a God’, landing at the centre of the record and getting a reprise on the final track, throws down the gauntlet with storming guitar solos as Wheeler lets rip singing about being made to feel empowered by another person. It’s the most balls-to-the-wall moment on the record and it’s one of the highlights.
In the album’s second half the quirky ‘Peanut Brain’ feels like a lost song from Ash’s early years, but it still works in the context of the overall sound of the album, while the blissed out ‘Crashed Out Wasted’ embraces the hedonistic nature of drinking your brains out while pining for someone. The guitars ratchet up a notch again on ‘Braindead’ as Ash lean into their harder rock side as Wheeler spits antagonistic lyrics. ‘Over & Out’, another highlight on the record, opens with crashing drums and brings to mind the band at their most powerful.
‘Race the Night’ is the sound of a band re-energised. Perhaps it’s for the best that the album had a longer period to gestate because this music is among the best Ash has released. You can hear the passion flow from the band, particularly Wheeler’s vocals, and the album whizzes by in such a rush, you’ll be reaching for the replay button as the closing bars play out. Loud, bold and fun, ‘Race the Night’ is a triumph for a band more than 30 years in and it’s sure to strike the right notes with their long-time fans.
Track listing: 1. Race the Night 2. Usual Places 3. Reward in Mind 4. Oslo (feat. Démira) 5. Like a God 6. Peanut Brain 7. Crashed Out Wasted 8. Braindead 9. Double Dare 10. Over & Out 11. Like a God (Reprise) Record label: Fierce Panda Release date: 15th September 2023 Buy ‘Race the Night’ now
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