As with David J so with Daniel Ash, by which I mean…confusion. Moke and smirrors. Angles of deception. That kind of thing.
Easily one of the greatest guitarists we ever have had come out of Britain what sort of artist does that make him when out on his own?
This compilation brings us the albums “Coming Down” (1991) and “Foolish Thing Desire” (1992) with a third side selected by the man himself of more recent work, and entitled “Bits ‘N’ Bobs.” The wide-ranging nature of styles and covers ensures you don’t get close to an idea of him as an artist at all, of the man, but you get to check out his approach, his artful dodging. It comes in a nicely designed triptych format sleeve, with another excellent Andrew J. Brooksbank set of sleevenotes. I also love the photo of the suited, mohicaned Ash leaning forward, as it looks like his head’s vanished! (Check the profile pic on his FB page.)
“Coming Down” is fun enough, an album involving the vocal assistance of Natacha Atlas and Kevin Haskins on programming and some keyboards. Opener ‘Blue Moon’ is just a sedate background ghost before the lurid ‘Coming Down Fast’ stomps and disports itself grandly. ‘Walk This Way’ does the Santana thing naturally and sweetly, ‘Closer To You’ floats delicately and ‘Daytripper’ is a shit original, so what can you do? But you see the effect here, it’s all spread out.
‘This Love’ sounds like a big grown up version of EMF! ‘Blue Angel’ is gorgeous, slinky and light with his cool vocal style; pastels, not oils. This is debonair and cheeky and hangs together well. ‘Me And My Shadow’ could have been awful but sounds like Bowie in a gravity free chamber. ‘Candy Darling’ (listed in the wrong order with ‘Blue Angel’ on the CD sleeve) is nicely morose melodrama, ‘Sweet Little Liar’ a drowsy threat, ‘Not So Fast’ seems a bit dull, like a slow Lou Reed but ‘Coming Down’ is cutely hazy.
The bonus tracks mainly involve two remixes of ‘Walk This Way’, one of ‘This Love’ and the track ‘Heaven Is Waiting’ which is essentially a luscious instrumental and so that’s not a bad album, simply fractured.
The second disc is the “Foolish Thing Desire” album, and here some more centralised character emerges, with a mix (‘Here She Comes’) by Wobble and four remixes of ‘Get Out Of Control’ by Foetus. ‘Here She Comes’ is a bland semi-throb, ‘Foolish Thing Desire’ a soft, heartfelt charming embrace and ‘Bluebird’ is okay, fluffily antagonistic. ‘Dream Machine’ is a slow burn beauty, moody yet inviting and the crunchy ‘Get Off Of Control’ does a post-glam delving revolve that encompasses much that was happening ins cuffed up indie dance melds happening at that time and sounds good.
‘The Void’ has some fascinating plunkiness in what is the first clear and engaging burst of Americana, ‘Roll On’ does the silver dream machine thing with bike noise and low slung guitar mooching, but if you asked does it sound like him, you could just as easily ask does it sound like anyone specific? He’s in there somewhere. ‘Here She Comes Again’ is a brighter, burlier version of what we have already encountered, and therefore a waste. ‘The Hedonist’ has some taut flourishes, and the starker dynamic impresses more than the rest although the lyrics are dire and it does degenerate into something of a sprawl. ‘Higher Than This’ ends things decently with hallowed, hollowed mystery.
The third disc is actually the more interesting of the three because at least we’re creeping near a modern reality and it shows the collaborations and soundtrack side.
‘The Push’ is a wonderfully dimpled pop song, ‘Spooky’ glides surreptitiously, ‘Fever’ is an earnest attempt and the grittier ‘Flame On’ catches fire neatly. ‘Indie Boys’ has plenty of attitude and keeping you hanging there although the lyrical snap never happens. ‘Someday’ is an acoustic stroll, as though Bill Pritchard has wandered into a session. ‘Candy Eye’ moves into something approaching Morcheeba territory, ‘Knocking On Heaven’s Door’ does exactly what it says on the stinky tin, although it’s a lovely vocal. ‘Hold Your Head Up’ is certainly bearable, given the Talking Heads bass.
I always liked David Essex, and not just because of his exemplary taste in football teams. ‘Rock On’ is an absolute delight, ‘Rock On (Space Echo Mix)’ woozily demented. ‘Gimme Some Loving’ is puffed up but pointless, ‘That’s What She Said (Radio Edit)’ is weird, like something off a naff tv show about shit relationships. ‘Goddess Gorgeous’ conjures up ghosts of New Order and is prettily haunted.
‘Trouble’ is a fine sorrowful shimmer that aches beautifully, and ‘She’s A Sad Song’ is even more impressive, deeply gloomy with crisply bleak lyrics. ‘Echo Plex (The Eno Shuffle)’ opts for celestial ambience, then we close with three tracks exclusive to Japan off their version of “Foolish Thing Desire.” The peppery ‘Firedance’ is high on aromatic clamour, the sleepily enjoyable ‘Acid Rain’ and a worryingly MOR ‘Paris ’92.’
The good easily outweighs the bland but being such a widespread collection it’s undeniably an odd gathering with the oldest tracks sounding dated now, so this is not as brilliant as hoped. That said, it’s a good way to replace old vinyl and to hear some unusual new tracks.