Never mind that the Irish quartet Ash seems to be a perennial darling of the British music press, wears its Star Wars obsession on its sleeve, and is almost dangerously photogenic. Ash's musical output still remains memorable amid the quirks. What started in the mid-'90s as sugary pop-punk inspired by the likes of the Buzzcocks has slowly evolved, over the course of four full-lengths, into something special lurking mostly beneath the public radar.
Granted, the elements here look like standard fare on paper: the catchy choruses of lead vocalist-guitarist Tim Wheeler, the all-business rhythm section of Mark Hamilton and Rick McMurray, the extra guitar muscle of Charlotte Hatherley, and the occasional cheeky song title like "Girl From Mars." However, the band's latest release, Free All Angels, shows that the foursome offers something more: the kind of rock that exudes adolescent charm, yet doesn't insult the intelligence of its listeners. The album's lead single, "Burn Baby Burn," possesses enough energy to make one merrily speed down the highway, while later tracks "Sometimes" and "So the Story Goes" have the teenage romantic qualities that start to tug at the heartstrings without making you feel the lesser for it. At Ash's party, you can cry if you want to.