Nina Malkin
August 02, 2002 AT 04:00 AM EDT

After watching their last CD — a busy, bellicose affair — get bitch-slapped by fans and critics, Ireland’s Ash have returned to the clean, uncomplicated sound of their mid-’90s debut. They borrow as much from hair metal (those ”Look, Ma!” guitar flourishes) as from the Ramones and occasionally resemble a Ritalin-deprived boy band. Eluding both current indie camps (they’re not maudlin like emo, not messily cynical a la the Strokes/Hives), Ash may have to settle for rock stardom.

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