ASH ★★

Is­lands In­fec­tious

The Irish Times - - Friday Life Film & Music - ÉAMON SWEENEY

Even though their mu­sic still brims with youth­ful ex­u­ber­ance, it is a full quar­ter of a cen­tury since three teenagers emerged from Down­patrick, Co Down, with an in­fec­tious gui­tar pop sound that spawned 18 top 40 hits and sold eight mil­lion records. On their sev­enth al­bum, Tim Wheeler and com­pany choose Damien O’Neill and Mickey Bradley of The Un­der­tones to con­trib­ute back­ing vo­cals to the lead sin­gle Buz­zkill, an­other ir­re­sistible slice of top-drawer noise pop that builds a seam­less sonic bridge be­tween North­ern Ir­ish alt-pop of the 1970s and the 1990s. On Con­fes­sions in

the Pool, they play­fully dab­ble with some elec­tronic sounds along­side Wheeler’s fa­mil­iar buzzing gui­tar, and they also chip in a fine lovelorn bal­lad with Don’t

Need Your Love. While the qual­ity of the song­writ­ing and mu­si­cian­ship is pleas­ingly con­sis­tent, Is­lands fails to match their own im­pec­ca­bly high stan­dards on al­bums such as Free All An­gels, or their ef­fer­ves­cent de­but, 1977. It is still a wel­come ad­di­tion to the Ash canon as the band proves again that teenage dreams are still hard to beat.

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