During the last weeks and months leading up to the announcement of what might just be called ‘The Plan’, the tension has been rising constantly. We’ve been collecting pieces of the larger puzzle, guessing, speculating - and seen in retrospect it all started with Tim mentioning in passing that ‘Twilight Of The Innocents’ would be the band’s last album.
After the initial shock a lot of approval arose among fans and media (at least the few who covered the story), together with some critical voices who mourned the denial of further albums. I was one of the latter.
Intergalactic Singles band...
Ash claims to be a ‘singles band’, and neither the figures (18 Top 40 hits) not the fact, that they have released a series of highly acclaimed singles while their records have received a sometimes not even lukewarm reaction, can be denied.
But neither can be denied that there are songs on the albums that would just as well have deserved to be singles - and I’m not even gonna start talking about the B-Sides! I think we all could name a bunch of songs apart from the singles that we wouldn’t want to miss, and on the other hand I suppose that even the most die-hard Ash-fans could pick out one or two songs per album that they dislike or at least consider less breath-catching that the rest. Still they are indispensable in the course of the album, even though we might never listen to them separately.
So Ash shouldn’t be reduced to the singles, ignoring the impact their records had in their entirety, by being more than just the sum of their parts - or in this case, songs. And while 10 (or 12 or 15) songs can melt together into an album, into something more, forming a dramaturgy and telling a story, which kind of bond (apart from the A-Z) will there be between the singles?
Can the "O-Single" compete with 'Oh Yeah'...?
The calculation that other bands would need over 17 years to release those 26 singles might be correct, but ignores the fact that Ash is releasing a total of 26 songs (plus B-Sides), without any “normal songs” to accompany them, so that it comes down to the amount of two records within a year (which is, no doubt about that, still very impressive!).
But even for the mighty Ash it might prove difficult to kick out 26 tunes that match the 20-something singles out of the five dozen album-tracks they have released so far. For all of us there will be songs to be liked and songs to be liked less - but being singles as opposed to albums-tracks there is no safety net, nothing to provide them their rightful place as a part of something bigger.
So that’s the objective reason, why I would have preferred two records (or a two-disc set) instead of 26 singles. Let’s face the other one, the (to be perfectly honest) more pressing one.
Your beauty took my breath away...
I cannot claim to be a “with-you-from-the beginning”-fan. A friend of mine passed me the highly infective ‘Live At The Wireless’ soon after it release in 1997, but the start of my Ash-summer was in 2001 with ‘Free All Angels’. I found it on vinyl in a little record shop, bought it after checking into the first few bars of ‘Walking Barefoot’ and played it all over again during a beautiful summer, autumn and right into the winter.
Why I am telling you this? Because I’m gonna miss this feeling!
Over the years I developed some kind of relationship with each and every album Ash released and it saddens me to think that there won’t be any further records to fall in love with. And I’m gonna miss the opportunity to feel for a new record the way I felt for the other ones:
I’m gonna miss the feeling of getting exited, like at the end of ‘Lose Control’, just because I know that ‘Goldfinger’ is about to kick in.
I’m gonna miss the feeling I had, like coming home from work thinking “What I need now is ‘Nu-Clear-Sounds’ at maximum volume”.
And most of all I’m gonna miss the feeling of ‘Free All Angels’ reminding me of a beautiful summer in 2001.
What are the new singles going to remind me of? A beautiful fortnight in 2009? I rather doubt it.