This is the sort of great big summer rock album that makes otherwise unsuspecting reviewers sit up straighter while listening to it on headphones in the school computer lab -- and then, in an unprecedented move, actually inspires those reviewers to remove whatever was in their car's CD player and listen to it all the way home at high volume. Okay, maybe not all
unsuspecting reviewers...but it really is that sort of album, one that's big and guitar-crunchy and sunny without being too taxing -- a modern-rock radio record for folks with a few more brain cells to rub together than the Andrew WK set.
Free All Angels really is great and fun and enormous in scope, in its way. The recording is equal parts shiny and dirty, and Ash's songs seem to have been lifted from the soundtrack of the latest sardonic spy thriller. "Submission"'s propulsive choruses and flute samples recall a heavily-reworked James Bond theme, and many of the songs have a sort of running sex/death theme -- "Nicole" and its refrain of "I killed my baby but I loved her", the subject of the Pixies-esque "Cherry Bomb" whom the narrator claims is a "bullet in (his) head", all that lust and violence that everyone finds glamorous whether they'll admit to it or not.
And you could analyze the social/psychological underpinnings of the lyrics all day, but ultimately that's not what's important: damned catchy rock music is what it's really all about, and Ash delivers that in spades. They have all the attitude of capital-R Rock Stars, with pop songwriting skills that frankly rival most of their power-pop countrymen, and they have a gift for arrangement, knowing when some interesting electronic squiggles or a glitchy bassline would be just what the song needs and when to just leave the guitars the hell alone. With Free All Angels, they've made a record for driving, for young future Splendid readers (or writers, for that matter) to sing along to and feel cool, for everyone to rock out and think that, yeah, they could analyze why they're rocking out, but they probably shouldn't.