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Over the course of three albums (and just a little over five years), Ash transformed from a bunch of rowdy Belfast punk-poppers to a group of sagacious guitar rock types sporting a paradigmatic Brit-pop sound. It's just part of the continuing musical evolution of vocalist/guitarist Tim Wheeler and bassist Mark Hamilton, who started playing death metal riffs together at age 13 under the name Vietnam, hoping to become the next Megadeth. They were still teenagers, now playing under the name Ash with drummer Rick McMurray, when they rocketed to celebrity status on the strength of their debut EP, Trailer ('95), and follow-up first LP, 1977 ('96), both of which piggybacked simultaneously on the American punk-pop explosion set off by Green Day and the Brit-pop phenomenon unleashed by Oasis. In the years since, the group has gone more the route of the latter than the former, honing their textbook style of bombastic guitar-driven power-pop in the tradition of those cheeky Gallagher bros, Supergrass, and Travis. The addition of a second guitarist, Charlotte Hatherley, helped the group along this path. She appeared on their second LP, the poorly received Nu-Clear Sounds. After a three-year hiatus, Ash reappeared in 2001 with Free All Angels, enlisting big shot producer and Garbage henchman Butch Vig to oversee the recording, a slick collection of uptempo pop-punkers, hard-edged FX-driven guitar rockers, and dark soaring power ballads.

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