This is a happy kick, with big guitars and big attack and onrushing energy, and it's no tedious retro punk record, either. Seven years out of high school, and high a-top the Brit charts in their teens, the mid-20s Irish boys (and English girl) haven't lost any of their pop (either sense of the word). No, they've stepped it up a notch, while adding layers of a post-Nirvana/Jesus & Mary Chain firewall that sounds modern. Most of all, leader Tim Wheeler's sunny melodies, so rare for music this aggressive and harsh, come to him so unequivocally that he should have to donate the excess he wrote for this LP to some public trust. Free's high-action burners would make anyone want to sing: big wall-bangers like the utterly panting, lascivious "Cherry Bomb," the 1964 Beach Boys-inspired "Pacific Palisades," the dashed love of "Nicole," the bravado of "World Domination," the Undertones-esque "Walking Barefoot," the nasty edge of "Shark," and most of all, this LP's out and out bomb, the well-titled "Burn Baby Burn." In the spirit of Hüsker Dü, China Drum, Compulsion, and Replacements, these songs are hard-hitting yet in the pocket -- and Ash adds its trademark youthful enthusiasm, shining out of these grooves like a signal flare. And to keep Free from getting samey, they add some full-on dreampop in the single "Shining Light," and lull-out in the sublime strings-comely "Someday," "There's a Star," and the demure, purring "Sometimes." And as a changeup, there's the way-kinky, dance-groove rumpshaker, "Submission," with drummer Rick McMurray and bassist Mark Hamilton pounding the funky rock groove like a sped up Stone Roses' Mani and Reni. These flavors insure that the bursting crank-up of the bangers are that much more electrifying. Ash are even more hot-rod now with more experience. They're a great rock 'n' roll band by any measure.
AllMusic Review by Jack Rabid