For those of you who are a little out of the loop, following their last album Twilight of the Innocents, Teen Britrock Heroes Ash announced that they would no longer release traditional albums, and would focus on releasing singles. This seems like a logical step, seeing as Ash have always been a much better singles band. The first fruit of this project is A-Z Vol.1, a collection of the first 13 singles (of a planned 26).
Although it looks suspiciously like a regular album, A-Z Vol.1 can really only fairly be judged as a compilation of singles. The styles of music on offer here really don't pull together one cohesive work - which is definitely one of the A-Z projects strengths. Ash have been set free to sprawl however they see fit across genre boundaries. Take the first track - True Love 1980 - a keyboard heavy electro-pop number, which sits comfortably next to the almost 6-minute rock anthem Joy Kicks Darkness. Experimental tracks that the Ash of old would never have thought about putting out like the delicate Pripyat sit shoulder to shoulder with more classic Ash moments like the fast and punchy pop punk of Command.
It has to be said that over their (almost) 20 year career, Ash have never really consistently delivered quality songs from the start to end of an album. Perhaps this is a negative side effect of growing up and evolving musically in the public eye. However, with A-Z Vol.1, Ash have really grown into the Rock band everybody knows they could be. This collection houses some of their best material, like the epic and piano led Arcadia and Neon. These songs showcase a huge and epic quality only ever really hinted at in some of Ash's earlier work. Another brilliant song on A-Z Vol. 1 is Dionysian Urge, which stands out as one of the best songs Ash have ever delivered.
In conclusion then, if you haven't been following the A-Z series, Vol.1 is as good a place as any to start. Roll on Vol.2.