Daniel Ash: Come Alive

Ash has not one, not two, not three, but four impressive back-catalogs to draw from on this better-than-expected live document.

Daniel Ash

Come Alive

Label: Psychobaby
US Release Date: 2005-10-25
UK Release Date: 2005-08-15
iTunes affiliate
Insound affiliate

"As they say, God bless America," Daniel Ash says midway through "American Dream", a song he originally recorded with Love and Rockets. But instead of starting in with the inevitable Great Evil bashing, he exclaims, "Fuckin' right! It's been very good to me, that's for sure." His refreshing perspective is not without reason: America gave Love and Rockets a steady run of college radio success that peaked with a Gold album and Top Ten single, 1989's "So Alive", while the rest of the world shrugged and got out its old Bauhaus records.

Despite that short-lived mainstream success, Ash has always projected the aura of a much more massively popular rock'n'roll star. With his black leather, spiky hair, and icy confidence, he was the coolest member of all three of his former groups: Bauhaus, Tones on Tail, and Love and Rockets. While he's been dismissed as a Marc Bolan knockoff, his effects-heavy guitar playing and subtle, highly affected singing style have influenced two generations of goth/punk/alterna rockers. Now, fast approaching 50, he's doing the downside-of-career-live-retrospective-thing. As Come Alive reveals, though, there are still some good reasons to care.

Recorded on a 2002 American tour (and possibly held back to coincide with the recent Bauhaus reunion?), Come Alive features a satisfying sampling of Ash's solo material, as well as some Love and Rockets and Tones on Tail evergreens, with one Bauhaus offering for good measure. Taking center stage (backed by a workmanlike but never-intruding rhythm section) allows Ash to enter full rock'n'roll mode, mostly for better and sometimes for worse.

True to format, the album starts off with a run of songs from the then-current, overlooked solo album. "Come Alive" nearly ruins things before they get going, crushing Ash's cool beneath cock-rock guitar noise and senseless screams. The attempt to hip it all up with some breakbeats is almost laughable, and echoes Love and Rockets' ultimate failure to convincingly embrace Ash's rave-y leanings.

Thankfully, it's all uphill from there. Most of the other solo material is strong, sticking to the same musical and lyrical themes Ash has always favored: alternating blasts of psychedelia and glam-rock sheen, and seductively evil women with just plain evil ones. "Ghost Writer" even employs a convincing reggae rhythm a la "She's in Parties". Ash has always made wise choices of cover versions, so it's disappointing that a take on Classics IV's "Spooky" falls flat until Ash saves it by segueing into "Come Alive", which he for once renders with pride instead of the spite that dogged it in Love and Rockets' later years.

This is a good chance to re-discover some overlooked tunes, too, like the clever, serene title track to Love and Rockets' underrated Sweet FA, or Ash's own hard-charging "Get Out of Control". But it's the Tones on Tail stuff that wins you over. Occupying a crack in the early '80s between Bauhaus and L&R, Tones were the most clever, fun jazz-goth-pop-synth-dance act you may never have heard of. An attempt to rawk up their club hit "Go" doesn't translate too well to disc, but "Christian Says" is as badass as ever, with Ash's guitar slithering through like a boa.

Through it all, Ash sounds like he's having fun, inciting the crowd and engaging in humorous banter, revealing a personality that was always hidden beneath those dark shades during his heyday. Newcomers would be better off starting with the Tones catalog and following the used CD bins from there, but Come Alive isn't quite the footnote it could easily have been.


So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.