CHARLOTTE HATHERLEY Grey Will Fade (2004 UK 10-track CD album from the Ash guitarist including the single Summer & the download-only single Kim Wilde)
Though Grey Will Fade marks her solo debut, Charlotte Hatherley will already be a familiar name to fans of Ash. Back in 1997, she made the Northern Irish trio into a fourpiece, adding her guitar and sweet vocal harmonies just in time for their 'difficult second album', Nu-Clear Sounds. Interestingly, though, Grey Will Fade doesn't sound much like an Ash album at all. While her bandmates are keen to make the transition to straightforward rock (as heard on 2004's excellent Meltdown), Hatherley seems happier sticking to her indie roots. Grey Will Fade is, for the most part, a great little indie rock album, filled with bouncy little guitar gems. Hatherley has chosen her influences wisely, and the ghost of the Pixies looms large throughout, particularly in her incendiary, Joey Santiago-esque guitar playing on "Summer" and "Stop", where the solos tear along in the middle of the melody. And the upbeat, power pop vibe on "Kim Wilde" and "Paragon" are reminiscent of Weezer's best and catchiest work. In fact, the only real misstep here is "Down", which threatens to derail the album at the halfway point with it's plodding pace and tepid lyrics. But Grey Will Fade quickly regains its balance, and proves that Ash's Charlotte Hatherley has a voice all her own, and it's one worth listening to. --Robert Burrow
Musically, 2004 should be remembered as the year of the underdog.
Last December, who would have thought that hyped heavyweights like The Hives and The Vines would return with unimpressive second albums that would be massively outsold by a crew of mostly gay, disco-crazed New Yorkers like Scissor Sisters?
And who would have thought that Charlotte Hatherley - the Ash guitarist routinely sneered at by male critics as eye candy - would release an album that would wipe the floor with that of her usual outfit?
While Ash's Meltdown saw Tim Wheeler lapsing back into the guitar-heavy, tune-light riffola that blighted the earlier Nu-Clear Sounds, Hatherley has brilliantly reclaimed the breezy guitar pop that first made him famous.
The result is so utterly charming, so guileless and lovable, that it would be all too easy to get carried away.
For that reason it's important to note that Grey Will Fade is firmly traditional and far from groundbreaking. Indeed, pretty but insubstantial tunes like "Why You Wanna?" could have been cribbed from a "How To Do Indie" beginner's guide. Nor is Hatherley a disciplined songwriter; nothing here has the punch and sheer momentum of Ash's "Burn Baby Burn".
But who could possibly care when a tune as irresistible as "Kim Wilde" is fizzing out of your speakers? All Blondie guitars, Fleetwood Mac harmonies and giddy tempo shifts, it's far too busy enjoying itself to bother concentrating on just one of its three choruses.
The rest of the album doesn't get close enough to its brilliance, but it stays in the same postcode, which is good enough. Built on a gorgeous acoustic flourish, "Down" is lovely and lazy, while the ultra-poppy "Bastardo" is infectious and hilarious, that age old tale of a lady torn between her guitar and her lovely Latino. Elsewhere, lead single "Summer" is as warm and wistful as its title.
If I were Tim Wheeler I'd be looking at the story of a certain Black Francis and Kim Deal and feeling a little anxious right now. --Jack Smith
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