The debut album that took just 34 years
Sometimes the best place to start is the most obvious. In that spirit: No Hot Ashes originally formed in the middle of the 1980’s and “NHA” is their debut record.
The tale as to why is for another day, but since they got back together in 2013 for a one-off gig it kind of snowballed. Indeed, your humble scribe saw them at Hard Rock Calling the day Aerosmith played, and they almost had to make this album.
Not that making “NHA” has been an easy journey. Indeed, mere musical mishaps were given the sharpest of perspectives, as bass player Paul Boyd tragically died of cancer last year. He appears on this record and the band are dedicating it to his memory. He and his family should be very proud indeed, because the 10 songs here are quite superb.
“Come Alive” sounds as vibrant as it should given that they’ve waited three decades to get some tunes out there. A kind of modern take on hard rock, any similarities to FM are purely intentional given that Merv Goldsworthy and Pete Jupp twiddle the knobs here. The type of record where the keyboards are as important as the guitar, it is confident and classy stuff.
The same could be said for the rest of it, in truth. There is a touch of Toby Jepson about Eamon Nancarrow’s vocals throughout, but particularly on “Good To Look Back”, while the soaring hook and fine solo will make you wonder why they left it so long.
“Satisfied” with its knowing sass, is a masterclass in how to do mature hard rock – and yes, fists are meant to go in the air here – while the ballad “Boulders” is rare in its poetry and introspection.
About halfway through the record comes – perhaps – its key moment. “I’m Back” (irony in the title probably intended) begins with an exultant scream. Whether it’s the glee of finally getting this out only they know, but crikey, it sounds like it might be.
Like all the best music of this type, there is a pulse, a crunch and a throb about “NHA”. “Glow” has all those things, and still sounds slick. “Over Again” on the other hand, gets bonus points for three things. 1) starting with a solo – always ace 2) Big, unashamed harmonies and 3) A Thin Lizzy style twin solo at the end.
“Johnny Redhead” is essentially the best song Little Angels didn’t get on their debut, and “Souls” not only tells the story of a small-town girl (probably in a lonely world) and a small-town boy (where he was born and raised is unclear) but also has hints of Journey just in case you weren’t sure.
It finishes in just about the same strident fashion it began. Aptly, “Running Red Lights” shows everyone a clean pair of heels before heading for the horizon as fast as it can. Just like hard rock should, frankly.
Forget the back story, if “NHA” was a debut record by a new band it’d be lauded as special. Add in everything that happened along the way to No Hot Ashes and it becomes exceptional.