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The thee members of Ash; Tim Wheeler, Mark Hamilton and Rick McMurray were still studying in school when Trailer (their debut mini album) was released. This makes the record all the more impressive considering their young age. It is an album that is rather in debt to their influences, punk shot through with the quiet/loud dynamics of Dinosaur Jr and Nirvana.
Compare to their later full length releases and Trailer has a much more rough and ready sound, far less polished than they would go onto record. Along with this lo-fi quality is a breathlessness to their playing which drives the material along, Petrol is a good example of this with the propulsive rhythm section of McMurray and Hamilton driving the song at a breakneck pace. Elsewhere the catchy single "Jack Names The Planets" is another early Ash favourite and would continue to be a staple of their live for years to come. Uncle Pat also stands out with its excellent bass line, the track was also featured on a Henieken advert and would was included on Intergalactic Sonic 7s, Ash's greatest hits album.
They didn't have it all figured out in their teenage years however, Get Out is a fairly obnoxious throwaway that can easily be skipped and Obscure Thing is an unfocused way to end things. Ash would go on to make superior music with the follow-up 1977 that saw them really come into their own and achieve success.
I'm reviewing the UK version of the album, so the tracklisting is as follows:
Season; Jack Names The Planets; Intense Thing; Uncle Pat; Get Out; Petrol; Obscure Thing
Tim Wheeler (guitar and vocals), Mark Hamilton (bass) and Rick McMurray (drums) were teenagers when they recorded their debut album. 'Trailer' shows both sides to Ash - light and dark, alternating between them on the album, with opener 'Season' a song about a friend's suicide.
Of the light side are the singles: 'Jack Names The Planets' is the only song with obvious singalong chorus, and begins with a bizarre conversation between two Dutchmen; whereas 'Uncle Pat' and 'Petrol' follows-up their verses with instrumentation - the former with a lead guitar line said by Tim to having a rural and Irish quality, whilst the latter is topped up by twinkling guitars and driven on by Mark's bass-lines.
Then there's the dark side. By far my favourite track is 'Intense Thing' - it's noise guitar, menacing bass and heavy drumming after the opening calm of clean make for an intense alternating two-chord bridge build-up to chorus. A chorus which, when it comes, you will want to be singing along to. And with the provided lyrics you can.
'Get Out' is of a three-chord punk flavour, played with speed. In the final song, Tim Wheeler's voice becomes the 'Obscure Thing' - spoken vocals are about audible, and even his growls are almost lost as they lie low in the mix, so it sounds like an instrumental, and not a strong end to the album.
Aside from 'Intense Thing', I found the album to be an average listen, hence I can only recommend it to Ash fans who haven't already got this. Trailer does exactly what it was meant to do - it's an example of what Ash would be well known for, but just don't expect it to be full of pop choruses.
Does anyone else remember those good old days of tomfoolery and Britpop? You know what I mean, surely. Think back to 1995, to long summers of festivals headlined by the likes of the impossibly British Blur, Elastica and Supergrass, to Top of the Pops finding a revival, to those deliciously infectious poppy/rocky songs that you just HAD to dance to? Myself
I remember those days fondly. And whilst most of the Britpop frontiers have sadly fallen into obscurity, doing the odd pub tour and the likes, I can comfort myself with the fact that Ash, the Irish upstarts of the mid nineties and eternal sprightly youngsters, are still around championing the cause of Britpop.
So, over ten years ago now (bloody Hell), a punk-enthused three-piece from Downpatrick released a mini-album at the tender age of seventeen. Considering the three boys cited their influences as Nirvana and various other metal bands, things were looking a bit dicey. Many were prepared for a dreadful, scream-a-thon album full of pointless teenage angst that everyone feels, though dont all decide to bother the airwaves with. On one count, they were right; there is indeed an angst element, though, surprisingly, it was rather good. Where was the punk? Not there, basically. Where was the screaming? Theres not much The conclusion reached was simple. Ash was a band with more to give than your average teen garage rockers.
Trailer kicks off to a riotous start with the guitar screeching Season. Sounds loud, yes? Not really, my acoustic loving friends. Whilst frontman Tim Wheelers guitar undoubtedly factors in with a great amount of noise, the melody is unmistakably present and well, rather poppy. And once Wheelers voice joins in, there is no doubt left in your mind that this is no metal band. A bit of a Bob Dylan figure (you know he cant actually, er, sing), Tim Wheelers voice is young, warbly and at times a bit weak. Admittedly, this doesnt sound like anything good, but the fresh faced innocence of it all is so impossibly endearing that you couldnt possibly find any problems with it. Factor in the fact that his voice suits the indie angst element so well, and you cant go wrong
As Season comes to an end the dear listener is treated to A Message from Oscar Wilde and Patrick the Brewer. A four second prelude to Jack Names the Planets, this message is in fact two of the bands roadies fooling around and discussing the forthcoming song. Strange? Yes. But if youre a fan of Ash, youll have heard of the much loved roadie Leafe, and you should enjoy his little contribution, because its the first and last hell have on any Ash album. Jack Names the Planets soon comes blasting through the speakers, and its undoubtedly the standout track of the whole album. Hilarious lyrics, upbeat and not overly screamy, its a song you just love to dance to, especially when knee deep in mud at some festival main stage. Well I do, at least. The guitar riffs are spot on, and Wheelers little boy voice nestles amongst the noise like a but little bunny seriously.
The album as a whole has a sound that has survived through the decade, withstanding the changes to British rock whilst keeping that little element of nostalgia. At times loud, always melodic, there is no filler in sight (well there had better not be, its a MINI album for goodness sake!) and on a whole its an upbeat listen, and a good way to prepare yourself for singing along to Ash on the main stage at next years festivals. Songs like Get Out with the louder element will appeal to fans of harder indie, whilst the slower picks such as Petrol will satisfy any emo geek.
As far as the rest of the album goes, there are standout tracks such as Uncle Pat and Petrol to enjoy. Definitely with a harder rock edge than anything Ash has produced since, this mini-album is undoubtedly a bit angst infused (they were only seventeen, after all), but the intelligent and funny lyrics save Trailer from becoming your average crappy teen garage band pap. Falling into the indie category, but thankfully without the whining quality you get with the likes of Idlewild or Coldplay, this album is a must buy for any Britpop/indie fan, and undoubtedly a collectors item in the eyes of an Ash fan. A word of warning to the newer fans though; this is no Free All Angels soft singalong album. There is a very present hard edge that might scare off fans of Someday. It should also be factored in that over the years Wheelers voice has strengthened and changed, meaning those used to the more modern warbling might find his wavering, young voice on Trailer a bit strange.
In conclusion then? Trailer, as the boys first recording, is a surprisingly mature and melodic record that provides a good insight into the bands origins and is a must have for fans. In keeping with indie and Britpop traditions, this is thankfully no Busted album. The boys, at seventeen, dont pretend to have been in and out of true love many times, singing ahead of their time etc, as certain bands have a tendency to do. Its an intelligent, funny listen and I urge any Ash fan to visit Amazon, where you can purchase this old gem for as little as £1.
Youre guaranteed real teenagers.
Ash wrote and recorded this album when they were 17 year old sixth form students in Downpatrick, County Down. Despite their obvious youth at the time, the music from this album shows that they were very accomplished musicians, Tim Wheeler's guitar solo from Uncle Pat being just one example of this. Uncle Pat is the hightrack on this album, with it's unforgettable bass line, and is instantly recognisable from a Heineken advertisement from the time of its release. Petrol is another outstanding track, a screeching guitar intro leading into a simple, yet melodious, verse, with the screening guitar accompaning the chorus. The other six songs are simple, and it is easy to see the influences of their heros like Nirvana in their work. This was the highlight of their work, and in my opinion it has been downhill ever since.
"Trailer" was Ash's first long-play release. It is classed more as a mini-album than a proper album, having only seven tracks. It shows a rawer, more punky approach than "1977" and "Nu-clear sounds". It varies between quite heavy punky stuff and some wonderful summer pop tunes. SEASON ------ "I cried bitter tears you had taken your own life" Season is a very dark song, played very aggressively, showing the punk side of Ash. It's a song about meeting someone, but in the end they commit suicide. A dark song, with some great stabby guitar playing giving a good indication of the feelings wrapped up in the song. "JACK NAMES THE PLANETS" ------------------------ "Said I'd kiss you if you want" Beginning with the strange conversation between Oscar Wilde and Patrick the Brewer, Jack Names the Planets is a fun pop song, one of the things Ash do best. It's all about the start of a relationship and silly misunderstandings. Nice and breezy, in between two dark songs. "INTENSE THING" --------------- " I need her now but she hates me more" Another dark, punky agressive song. This song is about seeing a girl he has finished going out with, but he still loves her and seeing her really hurts him because she just keeps on blanking him. This is my favourite track on the album, the sentiments are something I can really indentify with, the song is perfect to listen to if you're going through the same thing, it lets you channel all your aggression through the music. "UNCLE PAT" ----------- "I set off this mornig...." This was the first Ash song I heard, on a beer commercial when they where still at school! It has a very distinctive guitar riff, and is a very slow, broody, methodical song, perfect thinking music. It's about the journey he makes to see his Unlce's grave once a year
. "GET OUT" -------- "Get your money out" This song isn't very good, it's shouty and loud but has no real point, just Tim singing "Get your money out" again and again. The playing is good, but the song isn't really memorable. "PETROL" -------- "Cars stop outside" This is another brilliant shiny pop song, about a party at his house one night. It is a bright song, driven by a brilliant baseline, that cant help but put a smile on your face. "OBSCURE THING" -------------- This is mainly an instrumental song, going back to the more loud aggressive songs, with Tim mumbling indecipherable things over a great guitar riff. It's a great debut album, well presented considering they where sitting their A-levels sometime inbetween recoding all this! It can be found in most shops for about 8 quid, and is well worth it. You'd probably be better getting "1977" or "Nu-Clear Sounds" first, but it stands up well alongside both. If you are an indie or rock fan you should appreciate it.
Disc #1 Tracklisting
2 Message From Oscar Wilde And Patrick The Brewer
3 Jack Names the Planets
4 Intense Thing
5 Uncle Pat
6 Message From Mr Waterman
7 Get Out
9 Obscure Thing