1977 (Reprise ’96) Rating: A-
Critics assumed that this debut full-length album meant to recreate the primal punk roar of the Sex Pistols and The Clash, though in truth the album was named by a science fiction junkie for the year of Star Wars’ release (plus a couple of band members were born that year). Besides, this young the band’s punky pop has more in common with The Buzzcocks and The Undertones than either one of the aforementioned bands (perhaps the album should’ve been named 1979 instead?). I mean, could you see the Sex Pistols ever singing a chorus about a “Girl From Mars,” lifting a riff from Black Sabbath (on “I’d Give You Anything”), or writing a song in tribute to “Goldfinger” and Jackie Chan (“Kung Fu”)? The band unleashes an often-thrilling barrage of buzzsaw guitars (check out “Lose Control”), but a melodic, sometimes psychedelic undercurrent lurks within even their loudest numbers. For example, “Gone The Dream” could pass for the Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), while “Let It Flow” has traces of The Beach Boys. The truth is, Ash rocks both harder and softer than their multi-platinum selling peers in Green Day, yet these Irishmen remain largely unknown in the U.S., the why of which will likely remain a mystery to any air guitar aficionado who hears this album. The songs here are generally longer than the normal punk blueprint, and their cool guitar solos are distinct no-no's as taught in punk 101, while the sound effects littering several songs are decidedly 1996 (then again, Bostondid appear in 1976). I guess the delicate ballad “Lost In You” and the grand finale of “Darkside Lightside” are the final straws that cut the punk rock chord, but whatever the year or style, this is a really good rock record.