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Nu-Clear Sounds

music reviewmusic review  out of 4 Music Review: Nu-Clear Sounds

Artist: Ash
Genre: Rock/Pop
Release Date: September 1990

Review by MarkR
2½ stars out of 4

Tim Wheeler’s grunge-forged, Irish take (read: drunker) on Brit-pop is not the most original sound you’ll ever hear, but, the theory goes, if they invoke often enough the key memories of your favorite groups, then you’ll mistake Wheeler’s band for one of them. Ash’s last album, ‘96’s 1977 -- in homage of the year of STAR WARS (the disc opens with the Millennium Falcon careening across the speakers), if not the year the youngish trio were born -- was remarkable for two things: the overachieving single “Goldfinger,” and a puerile ghost track that featured drunken band members doing the projectile shuffle.

Two years (three for a delayed U.S. release), one movie theme song (“A Life Less Ordinary”), and an additional member (the unnoticeable Charlotte Hatherly on guitar) later, the now-quartet return with their third collection of infectious singles, obvious swipes and filler. Which, in the CD age, isn’t as egregious a crime it once was. For these days you can skip over the unconscionable Nirvana thievery of “Numbskull” (actually a single in the U.K.!), the passable but unnecessary “Burnt Out” and the white-washed Pixies boost “Wild Surf” (another U.K., believe it or not), to get to the thumping, undeniable “Jesus Says,” the supersonic swagger of “Death Trip 21” and the believably innocent pop ballad “Folk Song.”

You start to notice that Wheeler has a way with the mid-tempo fluff that belies his rockist tendencies. But halfway through NU-CLEAR SOUNDS you’ll also notice the ballads getting weaker (“Low Ebb”), the Velvet Underground-by-way-of-Jesus and Mary Chain lifts getting too flagrant (“Fortune Teller”) and the utter ordinariness of “A Life Less Ordinary.” The one track on the record that sounds unlike any other, “Projects,” comes across like a dream Creation Records roster jam session. It also reveals the lack of inspiration elsewhere among the titles. The production, mostly by Ash and Oasis soundman Owen Morris, polishes the tracks to a flawless enough luster, but not a sufficiently distracting one. And one must question the wisdom of such a Nirvana-bothering group enlisting Butch Vig to remix a trio of songs. Often, youthful exuberance is enough to carry a dearth of ideas. Maybe next time for Ash it will.



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