Ash @ Glasgow Garage, October 17, 2018
By Eric Mackinnon
There are some riffs, some melodies, choruses and bands which can transport you magically, musically, back in time.
For me, Ash are one of those bands. I'm of a vintage to have been embarking on my live gig-going early days when Ash dropped 1977 in the 90s.
When 'Girl From Mars' exploded onto the charts I was the right age to be sitting at my cassette radio as they ran down the Top 40 hitting record when the Irish indie-pop rockers continued to climb.
But the Irish three-piece have become feverishly active in recent years with a seventh studio album 'Islands' dropping in May this year with 'Kablamno' hitting shelves three years earlier.
“The new songs fit really well with the old hits which is great,” beams Ash frontman Tim Wheeler happily as he sat down with Eric Mackinnon before the show.
“There are always a few nerves though before starting any new tour and this is just the second show of the run tonight (Glasgow).
“We introduced a new song last night for the first time but it always takes playing a few times live before it gels. You can rehearse a song as much as you like it takes playing it live to get it.”
He continued: “We are so used to touring having started at 17 but we still love it. I enjoy it but we don't do it as intensely as we used to. In the past we would put an album out then be on the road for a year and a half with hardly any breaks. Now we do things in two or three week chunks.”
But it is the singles from their initial run which resonate the most and boot the packed our Garage crowd in the feels the hardest.
From 'Burn Baby Burn' and 'Oh Yeah' to 'Kung Fu' and 'Goldfinger' the band pack a series of massive melodic punches one after the other leaving slack jawed, teeth baring grins throughout the crowd.
'The opening bars of the popular 'Shining Light' have me stomping my feet, bopping my head and leaping around like I'm a teenager trying to impress a girl all over again.
'Girl From Mars' is the obvious crowd pleaser and the energy levels of the packed Garage dance floor is palpable and prompts a massive choral sing-a-long as men and women from teenagers to north of 45 crane their necks towards the stage and belt out their best homage to Wheeler and his 'Girl From Mars.'
“I don't mind playing it even after all these years,” grins Wheeler as I ask if he ever gets frustrated by the song in the way Kurt Cobain famously began to hate 'Smells Like Teen Spirit.'
“I love the seeing the audience's reaction when we play it as the energy goes through the roof and I live for that.
“It is fun and easy to play but to be honest I would be shocked to think as a 16 year old – when I wrote it - that I would still be singing it all these years later.
“It is fun to think about that.”
But does the subject of the band's biggest song even know her impact on a teenage Wheeler lives on so famously in song?
“I'm not sure if she does to be honest,” he laughs.
“She has no idea I don't think. I actually ran into her at home about ten years ago but I don't see her very much.
“Looking back I think I was very young and I didn't realise what i was writing about. There are genuine feelings about missing someone in that song and the way music comes out to expressed yourself. I think it is your subconscious coming out to the surface.”
He added: “I still try and write about personal experience as much as possible because crazy shit always happens in your life. 'Islands' has a lot of break up stuff from something I went through a few years ago but it is very cathartic to write about tough times you have been through.”
The only downside of a musical strut down memory lane full of nostalgia was they didn't crank out 'Jack Names The Planets' which was the soundtrack to a summer of smooching and budget cider in the Hebridean woods a long time ago.
Good times from a good band and one of the best British song writers of our generation.