In the late 90s, Brit-Rock was unavoidable. The battle between Oasis and Blur to claim the top spot was such a big story, it even reached my high school in Australia. But now, almost 20 years later, the bands I remember most from back then, and still keep coming back to, are the bands who came through the hole made by Oasis and Blur. They didn’t ride those band’s coattail, it’s more like they drafted behind them. Bands like Ash, with albums like 1977.
Straight out of the gate, and the guitar rock of Lose Control makes me think Ash were way more influenced by metal and punk than they were by their jangly guitar British Isles contemporaries. Having said that, Lose Control is by no means metal or punk. It’s got too much pop melody going on in the vocals for that. But the shredding, wahed, finger tapping solo definitely pushes a heavier agenda.
With a freight train like steady beat and crunching chords, Goldfinger is like early Weezer, cranked up just a little bit more. When it leads into the guitar pop simplicity of Girl From Mars, I realise that the popularity of this single may have created an everlasting misconception I have about Ash and their sound. Because when it leads into the aural assault of I’d Give You Anything, it’s clear that Girl Form Mars was more an exception than the rule when the band was writing 1977.
Then it’s time to embrace that oh-so-90s-British sound of shoe gaze on Gone the Dream, before Kung Fu fires off in all its pop/punk glory in just over two minutes. Later, things actually do a turn toward the Oasis style with Let it Flow. It’s still more energetic than anything the boys from Manchester would ever make. But if you slow the tempo just a bit, and amp the nasalness of the voice up to max, you’ve got a pretty Oasis-tastic song on your hands. There’s even a bloody tambourine
As things start to wind towards the end of 1977, they also start to wind down in freshness. By the time Innocent Smile hits, it feels like Ash has already said everything they had to say, but were obligated to add a few more tracks to make it to long player length. None of these songs are bad, in fact, they’re pretty good. They’re just nothing that hadn’t already been done better, earlier in the track listing.
I always thought I knew what kind of band Ash was. But after listing to 1977, I realise I have always based that on the handful of songs that have been on my iPod as long as iPods have excited. And while I really like that version of Ash, I think I’m much more interested in this new (to me version) of the band. The version of Ash that’s louder, faster, punkier, and generally, more in your face.