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When they first arrived in 1994, Ash's energy couldn't be denied. They sounded like the teenagers they were, something that gave their records considerable kick, but such enthusiasm was bound to wane as they grew older. Certainly, Kablammo! -- a record that arrives 21 years after Trailer -- has a different feel than the band's mid-'90s work even though Ash stay true to their enduring love of punk-pop and classic guitar pop, a decision that can't help but focus attention on how they've turned into expert craftsmen. It's not just that they're fine songwriters, either. Kablammo! is nicely paced, bursting out of the gates with big hooks and thunder beats, finding space to breathe with an instrumental called "Evel Knievel" (a neo-surf number that keeps the '90s nostalgia humming by seeming tailor-made for the Pulp Fiction soundtrack), then ending with a pair of bittersweet elegies. It's a record that moves briskly and knows how to entertain, testament to the fact that Ash have moved from spunky carriers of the flame to a well-seasoned old guard. What they lack in adolescent kick they more than compensate with savvy, smarts, and muscle, sounding like passionate survivors who are happy to fight for what they love in an era that takes such spirit for granted.

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