Coming after a long 8-years wait since the last LP, Kablammo! sounds like the product of a tormented soul torn in two very incompatible personalities. The Northern Irish trio’s latest effort is divided between a handful of punk-rock anthems and a few ballads. If it’s true that most albums feature a variety of songs whose nature greatly differs but which, put together, still manage to keep some cohesion, Kablammo!, unfortunately, isn’t one of them.

Full of promises, it opens with Cocoon – a downright, classic Ash tune, with a twist. What seems like a common punk-pop song, fast and bursting with energy, is enriched by a peculiar riff whose reverberations musically epitomise the cartoon-style graphic design of the record’s cover. A mysterious empty place and a strong desire to break out and be born again, here the fight is within oneself. Pow! Wow! The song even ends with what sounds like a gunshot. Boom! Everything combines in a eerie, vivid, visual and lyrical imagination that borrows from multiple sources but heavily relies on singer and songwriter Wheeler’s well-known fascination with all things cosmic and inexplicable.

Let’s Ride follows, an anthem in its purest form – starting with the title itself, the song is an encouragement to do something (in this case departing, “leaving behind all we know”) and the sing-along chorus only proves the obvious.

Wheeler then keeps drawing upon his usual set of references – dark vs. light, out-of-this-world powers desensitising and paralysing him. Machinery is yet another example of these haunting, unknown forces conspiring against his freedom. There is hope, in the guise of love, but it always seems like the protagonist of every story ends up in despair, either pining for the girl or whining over her loss. Take the slower-paced Free, to name but one. Straight after that comes Go! Fight! Win! and the tempo speeds up once more thanks to the steady drumbeats and the cheerleading screams. In spite of all that’s been said so far, Wheeler now claims to have finally made it through.

Then tracks like Moondust or For Eternity, make one wonder what happened to the rebellious spirit that Wheeler previously boasted. These lullabies are also nothing like any other love song by Ash, lingering too much on their piano melodies and strings harmonies. Even the lyrics are too cheesy and already heard. They feel out of place in an otherwise great album spawning songs like Spaghetti Western-sounding Evel Knievel.

It’s a pity, fingers crossed one of these days the hero gets the girl.