Jumping on the neon trend a decade late, Ash is back with Race the Night, an overjoyed rush which will provide a lethal smack to the head for those who remember darker days. This is no 1977. Instead, twee little numbers and uplifting rockability are found in the tracks of this latest album, a genuine shock to the system, like receiving volts to the brain after seeing your Sunday roast is made up of canned chicken and what might be vegetables. Shock becomes the best part. Chowing down on the piece itself is an eye-opening experience of sour tastes and fond memories of what good food was. Race the Night will present tearful collections of what could have been, the band which used to be and the out-of-step indie rockers now pursuing a colour scheme which felt dated in 2017.
Not quite the heartless instrumentation of horrors expected after the Owl City-like optimism of the titular opener, Race the Night struggles to match a steady pace. Follow the racing night as Ash say. It feels so empty and trivial, a broad charm which is wasted and misses out on truth or any real beauty. Ash manage to create an album which has nice riffs and steady drumming but to enjoy the neon lights and faltering impressions found in pockets of this album would be ghastly. Uncouth, even. Like it anyway. Embrace the bits and pieces which work and what comes through is a decent enough record. But decent enough does not cut the mustard, and nor does Usual Places. Ash prattle out simple rhyming structures and lament the loss of their regular hangouts. Time marches on. Ash does not.
As cold as those early works may be, the guitar riffs of the mid-2000s cannot shake themselves free. Ash is still marching on as though their heyday were still around. For the trickling listeners who stick around to pop 1977 on from time to time, the last thing they likely want is a washed, Weezer rock style. Delicate it may be in comparing one act to many others, it is more because Ash has no level of uniqueness to them anymore. Race the Night is a hodgepodge of vaguely memorable guitar riffs from the Scooby-Doo movie. A fine movie, a fine album. Isn’t the English language fun? Reward in Mind is not. Nostalgia bait in parts, but the feeling is then expressed to artists Ash is now reminiscent of, rather than Ash themselves. Grating simplicity on Oslo puts the needs of the heart front and centre, a fatally poor move for the intent of the song here.
No amount of instrumental class can save Race the Night from colliding into a brick wall it did not notice further down the road. It may race off against time itself but the likes of Like a God, arguably the best track of the album, are few and far between. Reminiscent of just about every band in the sphere of United States-based influence, the British alternative pop of old is now just the meandering remnants of whatever Ash was listening to at the time. Pockets of sound similar to this band or that artist are not just for the seasoned journalists who twiddle their thumbs along to the beat of deep cuts, but anyone with a hate for toothless repetition of ill-remembered rock riffs would do well to avoid the likes of Crashed Out Wasted and beyond.