Album Review: No Hot Ashes - 'Hardship Starship'

Stockport wise-cracks offer a diligent take on the political landscape but fall flat on breaking through the musical stratosphere.

A formidable talent emerging from the vigorously productive Stockport, No Hot Ashes might not be following the synth-pop direction of their town-mates Blossoms and Fuzzy Sun, yet their tendency to produce a string of infectious singles has already made them a tantalising prospect for modern times. Bolstering their musical repertoire by honing in on their passion for indie, hip-hop and spoken-word, No Hot Ashes’ debut LP is an expansive journey down indie rock’s exciting nooks and at times, tedious, crannies.

Going against the grain of conventional indie rock, No Hot Ashes, consisting of Isaac Taylor (vocals, guitar), Luigi Di Vuono (guitar, backing vocals), Jack Walsh (bass) and Matt Buckley (drums), offer a blend of sharp tirades against the political and cultural discourse of today, but they embellish these messages atop anthemic instrumentation. A barnstorming, foot-stomping thriller, Bellyaches is a titanic anthem that swaggers with the nefarious nonchalance of a band without a care in the world. Its synth-pop, dancefloor-proven chorus has the propensity for injecting hysteria into a generation of music fanatics looking for a distraction away from the climate’s latest issues, something furthered by the razor-sharp politically-sparked Indecision/Intermission. Alongside Taylor’s snarky, brazen vocals spouting the harsh realities of a broken Britain, the band explore an electronically-swayed production, something that works surprisingly to the four-piece’s benefit. It’s a calculated risk, and one that pays-off as one of the highlights of the record.

Image courtesy of Sam Crowston

A tantalising album opener, Extra Terrestrial showcases what the Stockport outfit are all about, whilst maintaining a heightened anticipation as to what could still come. A playful indie musing with a pulsating synth undercarriage, the electrically-charged pre-chorus is rough around the edges yet excels in providing listeners with a spirited camaraderie. On Salbutamol, a track that first seems like an ode to treating asthma and promoting the use of inhalers, the Stockport quartet lend themselves to the coquettish charm of swaggering indie titans Courteeners, rooted firmly in the heart of Britain’s Northern indie scene. Album closer Hey Casanova manages to maintain the same spark of energy that permeates some of the highlights of the record, an offering set to steer hordes of teenagers into a wild frenzy as the band rain pandemonium on their listeners with a dose of driving guitar.

"[Hey Casanova] is an offering set to steer hordes of teenagers into a wild frenzy."

Feels like we’re going in circles / Feels like we’re going insane’ harks Taylor on the cosmic W.Y.N.A, a moment of reflection and poignance capturing a monotonous essence of every day reality, matching the band’s lofty ambitions as generational spokesmen with the capacity for creating sing-along choruses. The summer-tinged guitar line of CAR also breathes a delicate dose of well-intentioned spaciousness on the record. Reminiscent of Mechanical Bull-era Kings of Leon, especially in its Supersoaker-styled outro, CAR is a delightfully simplistic bop, a signal of a band not taking themselves too seriously.

Despite their indie rock roots, No Hot Ashes offer a broader outlook across their debut LP. Trouble infuses classic rock and roll, punk and modern psychedelia in a spiralling dose of supernatural headiness. A rifling frenzy sparked by Taylor’s provocative pre-chorus stuttering, the track’s chorus is instrumentally the most explosive product the band have orchestrated to date, highlighting a newfound comfort and ambition amongst the space-age synths and guitars on offer. Taking modern punk and adding a noticeably electronic twist, ISH-KA is both musically and lyrically unpredictable, rooted within the heart instead of the head of a calculated raconteur who spits in a brash, half-spoken, half-rapped dose of primal intensity.

"[Trouble’s] chorus is instrumentally the most explosive product the band have orchestrated to date."

Yet for all its positives, the Stockport band manage to slip into the pitfalls that entrap a majority of hopeful indie rock bands attempting to navigate their all-important debut record. Aside from a very select group of bands, it is a near-impossible challenge to make a whole record reverberate the feel-good spark of a few anthemic tracks that litter a full-length album. Whilst the keyboard-driven Paradise/Overdrive falls chokingly flat, Motion Sick at first appears a pleasant listen yet in reality it fails to inspire potential avenues for exploration.

By building upon the familiar, No Hot Ashes have produced a cohesive body of high-octane indie rock tracks with a subtler pop edge that leans against the enriched sound palette of the past. Yet aside from a few sharp twists and genre-turns, Hardship Starship fails to truly transport its listener out of the stratosphere.