ASH Intergalactic Sonic 7"s (Infectious/Sony Music/Homegrown)
Having always consigned Ash to the kind of slightly comic indie-for-kids bucket as Supergrass, this compilation of 19(ish) hit(ish) singles is something of a small revelation. It's 75 minutes of proper, noisy pop music, like The Buzzcocks on a sugar rush, the kind of chrome-plated melodic perfection that just wont wear out. Whether propounding such bizarre possibilities as dating aliens ("Girl From Mars") or being visited by Jackie Chan (the T. Rex-meets-Ramones fuzzy glam stomp of "Kung Fu"), or mixing it effortlessly with Bacharach on the Walker Brothers-sampling "Candy", Ash hardly put a foot wrong. Perhaps it might be wise to draw a veil over the three unhappy-sounding selections drawn from their difficult second album, "Nu-Clear Sounds", but such lapses are easily excusable when the brilliance of "Oh Yeah" (the authentic sound of being 16), the Novello-bagging yearning of "Shining Light" and especially the revelatory "A Life Less Ordinary" - I've endured the film twice and somehow never logged the flickering brilliance of Ash's soundtrack contribution - are just a skip away.
My copy arrived with a free second CD, "Cosmic Debris", containing 22 of their best b-sides, as selected by visitors to Q's website - hmmm. Whilst falling some way short of the greatest flipside catalogues in rock - for example The Beatles, Oasis, The Stone Roses and The Smiths, all of whom have compiled championship selections of non-album material - for every dumb sub-Detroit punk workout ("13th Floor", "Taken Out", a cover of Mudhoney's "Who You Drivin' Now?") there's a minor moment of greatness. "Warmer Than Fire" appeared on a recent Uncut cover CD, where its lowly status in life went totally undetected, whilst the standard issue rumbling punk discordance fails to crush the delicious melody out of "Where Is Our Love Going?". "Nocturne" is a big, luxuriant, string-soaked thing, the band recast as unlikely palm court crooners, and "Hallowe'en" makes for a lovely, rambling, unpretentious tale of leaving home and finding some kind of place in the world. All this and their comedy cover of John Williams' "Cantina Band" from the "Star Wars" soundtrack too!
In conclusion, if you ever thought you'd like Ash, you'll like "Intergalactic Sonic 7"s". And if you never thought you'd like Ash, you'll probably like it too.