ASH: TWILIGHT OF THE INNOCENTS (2007)
1) I Started A Fire; 2) You Can't Have It All; 3) Blacklisted; 4) Polaris; 5) Palace Of Excess; 6) End Of The World; 7) Ritual; 8) Shadows; 9) Princess Six; 10) Dark And Stormy; 11) Shattered Glass; 12) Twilight Of The Innocents.
In my highly subjective, one-in-a-billion, opinion, completely irrelevant in the face of the universe and its struggle for perfection, peace, and justice — Twilight Of The Innocents, presumably the last ever LP-format release in Ash history, is a pile of bland, instantly forgettable, proverbially generic, emotionally disappointing, intellectually insulting, historically insignificant, culturally repugnant airwave stimulants, with a passable superficial similarity to a certain style of art they used to call «music».
To soften the blow, I hasten to confirm that the exact same definition could be slapped on a million other records, including complete discographies of certain artists we could (but won't) name — and also express a certain amount of satisfaction. For more than a decade, Ash seemed like the perfect band to release a primetime suckjob of an album, but something always stopped them at the last moment: a cool vocal hook or two, a passable funky groove, a well-thought out guitar solo, a heartfully delivered folksy melody, something like that. Now, with Charlotte Hatherley once again out of the band, the classic trio finally feels free to fire their worst shot.
Apparently, the intention here was to play it more «raw», less «polished» – a statement that, coming from the mouths of most modern bands, is usually translatable to «run for the hills», because, nine times out of ten, dropping the «polish» also means abandoning any attempts at writing non-trivial melodies. Which is really logical: «raw», «unpolished», «with a live feel to it» is frequently understood as «go into the studio and hammer out anything that just blunders into your head. Don't worry, you're a pro, you're bound to sweat out some inspiration».
None of these guys happens to be Thelonious Monk or Keith Jarrett, though, and even if these songs were all written on the spur of the moment, that does not excuse their existence (and if they weren't, that's even worse). Everything here is written in the genre of... «rock music» (shudder), where one guy plays the drums, another one plucks the bass, and a third one picks distorted notes on the electric guitar. Ever heard of that? Oh yes, they do it rhythmically, so you can punch a couple of holes in the floor if you got spikes on your shoes.
There is not a single memorable riff here, nowhere in sight. There are claims at catchy choruses that rarely go beyond shouting the same line over and over again (ʽYou Can't Have It Allʼ). There is one slightly more than hopeless, but still quite pathetic attempt at coming up with an anthemic, «soulful» Brit-pop ballad (ʽEnd Of The Worldʼ), a last humiliating lick at the lollipop already consumed by the likes of Oasis – how does it taste licking a wooden stick? There are a few attempts at guitar jangle-laden power pop that don't even manage to step outside the door, because the jangle is compressed into sonic muck (ʽShadowsʼ) . There is an «epic» conclusion (title track) laced with falsetto and a bunch of strings rolling over Beethoven. None of it works. There may be craft, but there is no sign of genius.
It is true that there is less noise here than on Meltdown — the nu-metal legacy is almost out, replaced by nostalgia for the «1990s nostalgizing for the 1970s». But this is neither good nor bad in itself. And Twilight does not even feel like a sweeping nostalgic gesture: it does everything in half-terms, and ends up sagging rather than bulging in between its countdown points. Goshdarn it, there are only two things that Tim Wheeler can sometimes do really well — bash out sunny-happy Ramones rip-offs and sing sentimental folksy ballads — and this record just goes on to prove it by featuring neither. Thumbs down, violently.