Free All Angels could have killed Ash. Instead it was the album that saved them. Coming off the back of the commercial failure of Nu-Clear Sounds and at one point being just £1000 away from bankruptcy it's fair to say that alot rested on Free All Angels. The 6 month break and return to Tims parents garage (where Ash had begun 8 years previously) did them the world of good though, with the result that Wheeler didn't suffer the writers block that plagued their previous effort. Songs flowed freely and they felt they had made their best album to date. I find it hard to disagree.
Whilst Nu-Clear Sounds had songs that were great on their own, when put together on the album it tended to meander along with each song merging into the next. Free All Angels has no such problem. The tracks fit seamlessly alongside each other yet still retain their individuality. Stand out tracks include Walking Barefoot, which is the best possible start to the album, setting you up gently for the raw energy of the rest of the record, and was doubtless the soundtrack to many a summer,Burn Baby Burn, an irresistibility perfect pop record that has you hooked from the very first riff, and Pacific Palisades, which may be short (just 1.57 seconds long), but quite frankly, it doesn't need to be any longer. An often overlooked classic, its hard to understand why it wasn't given a single release.
This album is so cheery that its almost impossible to stop yourself singing along to it. It is an unashamedly summer record, reflecting the summer the band spent recording it in Southern Spain. There is a but though. Candy is a real splitter. Some will love it, some will hate it. Perhaps people just aren't prepared for the comedown after the fast paced Burn Baby Burn. World Domination seems to me an excellent end to the album, but some feel that it was perhaps too rushed. I can see where they are coming from, but that doesn't stop the enjoyment I get from the song as is.
There are those that will defend Girl From Mars (from the album 1977) to the death, and whilst it's true that it will always be difficult to beat, I feel that Burn Baby Burn manages it. It doesn't all rest on one song though. The entire album is electrifying, taking you from one hit to the next, so much so that it spawned 6 singles, and still leaves you feeling that there could have been even more. Is it better than 1977? That's down to personal taste. Is it a cracking, rip roaring journey through almost perfect pop-rock? Most definitely. This is the album that propelled Ash into the stratosphere, and on the evidence of this, they honestly deserve it.