We preview some of the top acts on the bill this year.
Summer festival season kicks into high gear this weekend with the first big event of the calendar taking place on the south coast. Tens of thousands of people will be heading to Seaclose Park on the Isle of Wight for a bill, which is top heavy on heritage acts that bring with them a sense of nostalgia. While recent years have welcomed the likes of Jay-Z, Calvin Harris and Kings Of Leon to headline, this time round it seems big names with an even bigger back catalogue are being used as the main attraction.
However, many of the headline acts seem to be experiencing a renaissance of sorts. For example, Blur, whose new album 'The Magic Whip', their first since 2003, has won critical acclaim. The former Britpop poster boys will take to the Main Stage on Saturday night in the knowledge that this is one of the first times that UK crowds will get to see this new material given the live treatment. You can expect a set heavy on those new songs, but peppered with all the classic singles, certainly a formula for a memorable festival appearance. It's a similar story for The Prodigy who'll headline the Main Stage on Friday after The Black Keys. Both acts have played the festival in recent years and here they're repeating the joint top billing that was given to Biffy Clyro and Calvin Harris last year. As with Blur, The Prodigy's new album, 'The Day Is My Enemy', has revived interest in the band following an extended period out of the spotlight. Elsewhere, Fleetwood Mac will bring proceedings to a close on Sunday, bolstered by the return of Christine McVie to the band, a set covering Rumours era gems like 'Don't Stop' and 'Songbird' is a strong possibility.
The stalwarts of indie, Ash's biography is close in length to 'War and Peace'! Having been together for nearly twenty years, they have experienced changes of line ups, seen Britpop come and go and have seen a complete change in the way people listen to music. We caught up with them back stage at Benicassim Festival to chat about the secret behind their longevity, their inventive way of combatting changes in the industry and how it's apparently more fun to be in Ash than it is to be in Bloc Party!
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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.