Downpatrick trio Ash are back at their summery and guitary best on this terrific new album  

The signs are certainly good for Ash’s first album since 2015’s Kablammo! They’re back on Infectious Records, the label that released the Downpatrick trio’s cracking debut all of 22 years ago and they’ve also reunited with their old manager.

Most importantly of all, there’s even a Star Wars reference on the album cover in the shape of a (black and white and upside-down) picture of Skellig Michael. Happily, the music is also back firing on the same pop punk cylinders as their earlier, more immediate work.  Even at a ridiculously youthful 41, lyricist and front man and guitarist Tim Wheeler still knows how to dash off timeless teen anthems eulogising mythical summers of yore, lovelorn ballads (I Don’t Need Your Love is a gem), and glowing, mid-paced minor glories like Somersault.

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Recent single Annabel is a classic, short, sharp burst of melody and bummer in the summer freak-out Buzzkill (featuring Damien O’Neill and Mickey Bradley of The Undertones) rejoices in possibly the most f*** bombs since Johnny Rotten snarled his way through Bodies. It’s a Trap (another Star Wars reference) is a slow build weepy that shows off Wheeler’s songwriting suss ("a blade of moonlight in a cave") while Did Your Love Burn Out? and Silver Suit are brilliant exemplars of controlled guitar melody and attack that would gladden the heart of Scott Gorham.

Another fine album that sounds like The Beach Boys and The Ramones jamming with The Undertones down among the dunes, Islands is a fizzy sugar bomb of great tunes primed for an endless summer. 

Alan Corr @corralan