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2002 singles compilation for British indie rock-stars with 19 songs (including ten top 20 hit singles) on the first disc & a bonus disc, Cosmic Debris, featuring 22 B-sides
Have you ever listened to The Buzzcock's 'Going Steady' singles compilation? It's absolutely, utterly fantastic. The same goes for the **Pet Shop Boy's 'Discography' and **The Cure's 'Standing On A Beach'. Shorn of the inedifying fat of album tracks and 'extras', Singles collections are the real mark of a good pop band, as sure as pop is about the religion of the 7".
Whereas a greatest hits collection inevitably signifies the conclusion of a career, a singles collection can be more charitably viewed as the summation of a 'work in progress'. The fact that Ash have managed to release a 19-track singles collection after 3 albums proper and a mini-album (or 'EP' as they used to be called) is impressive. The fact that it's as good as this is astonishing.
And have no doubt that it is astonishing. Ash albums are invariably as good as their singles, and as a result, '1977' and 'Free All Angels' are thusly brilliant. Collect their singles and you are looking at distilled gold. Actually, fuck gold, this is distilled platinum.
Defying the tradition of chronology in singles collections is probably a wise move; regardless of how throbbingly dark and sexy tracks off 'Nu-Clear Sounds' are, or how much Beach Boys-worthy pure pop nous are contained within the 'Free All Angels' songs, its '1977' that shows why Tim Wheeler is touched with a song writing genius. It doesn't matter how good the songs are that Tim writes from now until eternity, they'll never quite touch the same moment as their LP entrance of 1996.
I guess its an age thing, but there's an element of untouchable youth in these songs, most movingly the wide-eyed, beautifully maudlin passion of 'Goldfinger'.