November 19, 2012

In the midst of their 20th anniversary, Irish indie heroes Ash are set to release a single packaging of their vinyl A-Z Series on Noyes records. The collection of 26 singles they released beginning in 2009, recording and putting out a new one every two weeks, also includes bonus material not available until now in the U.S., like the acoustic version of “Arcadia, which we’re premiering here today. The band are currently on a tour that brings them to the Bowery Ballroom on Tuesday.

Naturally, twenty years into the game is a good time for introspection for a band, so I asked bassist Mark Hamilton to pick his five favorite Ash songs of all time. And then, because sometimes bands don’t know their own songs as well as their fans do, I asked my friend, fellow music writer and Ash superfan Michael Christopher to respond.

Mark Hamilton, the band:

1. “Projects”  from Nu-Clear Sounds.  “The lead track of Nu-Clear Sounds and possibly my favorite song that we’ve ever recorded. Thunderous drum pattern with interesting time signature, guitar parts moving in and out of synch with lyrics and a harmony to tear apart the space time continuum.”

Michael Christopher, the fan:

“Fair enough. Not going to argue with Mark over what may be his favorite Ash song, but if you are going to go with lead tracks, why not the one that started it all: “Lose Control” from the debut full-length, 1977? Apart from the opening sound of a TIE Fighter careening through a galaxy far, far away, and guitar riffage sickness that is just as otherworldly, there are lines like, “Later on as the night is falling/You bring me on with violent words desire and being young.” Mature beyond their years.

MH: 2. “Dare To Dream” A-Z Vol. 2.  “Defiant, powerful and beautiful track. Gave me goosebumps first time I heard the final mix. Special.”

MC: “Quite possibly the best song of the A-Z series. The way it just builds and builds for the first two minutes is reminiscent of Phil Spector’s best work. Pure sonic grandeur.”

MH: 3. “There Is Hope Again” A-Z Vol. 2. “Another gem from A-Z Vol. 2. Uplifting, soaring vocal with a pulsating rhythm and awesome guitar solo.”

MC: “Not completely sold on this being a top five Ash track, but I can see the logic; it’s the final track in the A-Z series, one which was exhausting for the band on so many levels.  It must’ve been quite the relief to close the books.  And yeah, that soaring vocal is pretty sweet.”

MH: 4. “Vampire Love” Meltdown. “One for the bloodsuckers. Dark and heavy riffs, pounding drums, solo-tastic spaz-outs, Metal Ash-stylee!”

MC: “Ash was way ahead of the vampire trend; this was released a year before the first (and least shitty) Twilight book hit shelves.  Featuring more guitar histrionics over a sinister sounding bass, it’s interesting “Vampire Love” was buried so deep in the recording.  Then again, it’s not like there are any weak tracks on Meltdown preceding it.”

MH: 5. “Someday” Free All Angels. “Epic, melancholy ballad that was somewhat overlooked from the power-pop that defined ‘Free All Angels’. We started playing it live recently again and goes down a storm, and a nice contrast from the rest of the set which is a full on sonic assault.”

MC: “Could not agree more. Free All Angels is recognized (rightly so) for standouts like “Shining Light,” “Walking Barefoot” and “Burn Baby Burn.” The balladry of “Someday,” and it’s sisters “Sometimes” and “So the Story Goes,” though are just as viable. Amped that “Someday” is back in the live set!”

Agreed, those are all good choices, but as everyone knows, this is clearly the best Ash track of all time.

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