Ash - Twilight of the Innocents
Fifteen years have gone by, and yet Tim Wheeler is only thirty. Because of their long career, though, Ash are dangerously close to being dismissed as old farts. Whether Twilights of the Innocents, their fifth studio album, can change that perception is yet to be seen. One thing's for sure, though: despite a couple of adventurous detours, and a complete lack of former band member Charlotte Hatherley, this is very much an Ash album.
The muscular comeback You Can't Have It All follows on from Meltdown's stonking single releases, reasserting the band's relative youth and proving they can rock as much as the new crop of indie bands. The likes of I Started a Fire, Blacklisted and Princess Six, where Tim Wheeler does his best Brendan Benson vocal impression, are all typical Ash pop songs, both anthemic and melodic. Where this album loses marks is when the trio try to do mid/down-tempo tracks. Recent single Polaris, in trying to sound BIG and rousing, ended up sounding too clean. Despite not being particularly exciting, Shadows fares better than End of the World, which is as drippy as an Avril Lavigne slowie. Where is this record's Shining Light?
Just when you think they're no longer capable of doing anything other than upbeat punk-pop stormers, they finally get it right. While it's perhaps a little too overblown, album closer and title track Twilight of the Innocents has to be commended for its ambition. It's the most successful 'slowie' on the record, featuring strings that sound like they've been lifted from the film score of a Hollywood epic. It rivals the big-budget ballads Muse and Biffy Clyro can pull off so well, and shows that Ash can surprise you now and then.
If you're not an Ash fan, I doubt this record will change your mind. Alternatively, if you've always followed the band, Twilight of the Innocents will probably be a welcome addition to your record collection. However, I doubt even the biggest Ash fan would argue this rivals some of their earlier stuff. I hear Girl From Mars pretty much every Saturday night; I can't imagine any of these tracks having that kind of longevity. Oh, and I miss Charlotte! You can't beat male/female vocal harmonies, and what other mainstream indie band do those these days? Sigh.