Nu-Clear Sounds

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While Nu-Clear Sounds lacks the immediate appeal of Ash's previous outing, 1977, over the course of repeated listens it emerges as the group's most bracing effort to date; the opening maelstrom of "Projects" immediately sets the tone for the record's snarling approach -- while there are a few gorgeously pensive moments, like the aptly titled "Folk Song," it's otherwise the raw, straight-ahead rock album the band always threatened to make. The addition of second guitarist Charlotte Hatherley galvanizes Tim Wheeler's songs, giving them a dimension and scope they previously lacked -- Nu-Clear Sounds is above all big and loud, but under its tumultuous surface lies Wheeler's most mature and poignant material yet, from the grippingly elegiac "Low Ebb" to the sweetly romantic "Aphrodite." Subtleties aside, however, Nu-Clear Sounds is first and foremost a rock & roll record, with all of the snotty swagger and attitude that the label implies -- at a point in pop history at which old-fashioned noise and bombast were at their most unfashionable, Ash bravely made an album that demands to be heard at maximum volume, and it's a glorious thing to behold.

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