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.