Tag: Ash

Mojo Reviews Challenge #011 – The Wonder Stuff – If The Beatles Had Read Hunter…The Singles

Where I dig into something I’ve not heard before, from the reviews section of old Mojo Magazines, on an irregular basis.

CS1813972-02A-BIGThe Wonder Stuff
If The Beatles Had Read Hunter…The Singles
1994 – Polydor

I would count Brit Pop as my big light bulb moment of music. I loved chart pop and a little bit of grunge, but the war between Blur and Oasis – and the rush of bands that included Ash, Supergrass, Pulp and more – was the first music that was mine.

Which is unfair to Brit Pop because It was already on its second or third wace by 1994/1995. The few years before that are still largely a mystery to me, although I’ve heard of a lot of those bands. Take the Wonder Stuff, who had several chart hits and four albums (3 of them bothered the top 10) and had broken up and released a greatest hits before ‘Common People’ was even recorded.

My knowledge of the Wonder Stuff can be summed up thus;
– ‘Dizzy’, the friggin’ awesome single they did with Vic Reeves in 1991
– ‘Size Of A Cow’ and ‘Unbearable’ on various compilations
– The singer has long, curly hair

The kind of perfect amount of knowledge to bring in a Greatest Hits, then.

The title comes from a review of the band, (the Hunter being Hunter S Thompson) and it is a very generous assessment. They don’t have the clean lines of the Beatles, but they do have a lot of thrash-it-out energy, which is the most exciting part of this compilation.

There seems to be no order with this set, and I hate Greatest Hits collections that do this. Why? Why not just go chronological? Tell me a story. I don’t know your songs, and putting it in some biggest-hit-to-obscure-songs order helps me nothing. It is a bit of a jumpy listen straight through – production values and instrumentation (the violin in particular) come and go.

There’s a lot of catchy, fun stuff here, regardless. The songs I knew still shine. ‘Welcome To the Cheap Seats’, ‘Don’t Let Me Down Gently’, ‘Caught In My Shadow’, ‘A Wish Away’ – all lovely little pop confections. But there is filler too – a very British thing to have so many singles over a short career. The quieter stuff, the country-ish stuff, are nice but unremarkable.

(Here’s Welcome To the Cheap Seats, album in a longbox and Paul Schaffer on keys and everything)

Unremarkable also, because of history. Maybe it is my age bias, but the aforementioned Blur and Pulp would sweep in and add this level to artistry that would bury this band and other similar bands. I don’t know about the Thompson comparison – I don’t know if the lyrical ambitions are that literary. Maybe these were cool lyrics in 1994, but by 1996 they were pop fluff.

At some point, I’ll probably start deleting some tracks off the iPod and be left with like 10 absolute solid thumpers. I don’t know if anyone talks about these guys anymore, and history is written by the victors. They missed to Brit-Pop movement going mainstream and international, although they have reformed and put out new albums. They also look dated. They had some great songs, but they just didn’t have it.

One last note – ‘Dizzy’ is still an amazing track. One of the very best.


Tuesday Tunes: Ash – Return Of White Rabbit

Ash - Return Of the White Rabbit
Ash - Return Of the White Rabbit

Even those most hardened Ash fans would admit it’s all about the singles. They started at the time of grunge with the sparkling, timeless Jack Names The Planets. They survived Brit Pop with a strong of hits from their 1977 album. And even if some of those later albums were a bit uneven, the singles like Burn Baby Burn still ruled.

So Ash may have come up with a solution to those uneven albums. They are giving up on the album completely, and will only release singles from now on. Even more ambitiously, they will put out 26(!) new singles this year. The first taster is now free on their website. It’s called Return Of White Rabbit.

This Tuesday Tunes column was a challenge from the start. Could we find a new song a week that was offered for free and legal? It hasn’t been a problem so far. In fact, the last column was for a full album. But with bands taking risks like this, we don’t think it will be a problem now.

The experiment starts in September with True Love 1980. And then there is a new song every two weeks. Surprisingly, a CD version will be released alongside a digital and vinyl version.

The song itself is a bit of a departure. It’s got a strong leaning towards Depeche Mode style dance beats. It’s not our favourite Ash song but maybe it will grow on us. If not, we’re going to have a lot more music for them to make it up to us.

You can get the free mp3 from the official Ash website – http://www.ash-official.com. Price of admission is an email sign-up.