Ash

The Best of Ash

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At the time of their last greatest-hits collection, 2002's Intergalactic Sonic 7"s, Northern Ireland rockers Ash had just enjoyed a major career resurgence which saw them top the U.K. charts for a second time and score an impressive five Top 40 singles in just 12 months. Unfortunately, following 2007 flop Twilight of the Innocents, and an innovative but largely ignored project which eschewed the idea of the traditional studio album in favor of releasing a brand new song every fortnight, this second retrospective is unlikely to repeat its predecessor's success. Which is a shame, as despite their decreasingly lower chart positions, the intervening years have seen Ash produce some of their strongest work. With only seven tracks selected from that period, Best of Ash isn't the most representative of collections, but there's still enough here to prove that Tim Wheeler's songwriting is still as potent as ever, from the harder-edge metal of "Clones" to the pulsing indie disco of "You Can't Have It All," to the flirtation with electro on "Return of White Rabbit" (one of two cuts from their A-Z singles concept). Unsurprisingly, the focus remains on their two chart-topping albums, with five selections from their sophomore effort, 1977, and four from 2001's triumphant comeback Free All Angels; most of these have aged surprisingly well. "Girl from Mars" and "Kung Fu" still possess the raucous energy and youthful punk-pop attitude you'd expect from a band fresh out of school, "Oh Yeah" sounds as fabulously bittersweet as ever, while the double whammy of "Shining Light" (later covered by Annie Lennox) and "Burn Baby Burn" remains the band's greatest and most anthemic single. Elsewhere, there's a slightly polished re-recording of "Jack Names from the Planets" from their little-known 1994 debut, Trailer; their underrated theme tune to the Danny Boyle film A Life Less Ordinary, and just one track ("Wild Surf") from the 1998 Nu-Clear Sounds album which nearly sank their career. With six Top 40 hits omitted, including the gorgeous ballad "Polaris" and the inventive, Walker Brothers-sampling "Candy," Best of Ash doesn't contain everything you need to know, but it's a solid, updated overview which proves Ash's credentials as a great singles band.

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