Homegrown/Infectious Records - 2004 - 43 minutes

The fantastic, deserve-to-be-bigger American band Clutch once defined their whole reason to be - and at the same time put it up to their audience - with the song title 'Who Wants to Rock?'. If Ash hadn't named their new album 'Meltdown', then there really was only one other choice.

In-the-van tours of the US and time with Foo Fighters and Queens of the Stone Age producer Nick Raskulinecz has toughened up their sound, but the advance word suggesting that Ash had ditched fun for fierce is a little wide of the mark. Tim Wheeler is no Josh Homme, but even Homme hasn't got the same way with choruses.

Bigger, louder and with seven of its 11 tracks just waiting to be singles, few bands will manage to straddle street cred and chart savvy so successfully this year. And if people tire of the Beastie Boys' upcoming record as the sound of their summer, there are always thrills to be found in these amps.

Ash's greatest achievement may have been surviving an album as dreary as 'Nu-Clear Sounds' and coming back with one as likeable as 'Free All Angels'. But 'Meltdown' comes a very close second.

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: Meltdown - Orpheus - Evil Eye - Clones - Starcrossed - Out of the Blue - Renegade Cavalcade - Detonator - On a Wave - Won't Be Saved - Vampire Love