No Hot Ashes have amounted a dedicated following in their humble hometown of Stockport, and played a considerable role in the underground circuit in Manchester. I have been lucky enough to have followed them for a considerable amount of time, watching their development in venues such as Jimmy’s, Sound Control (RIP) & their biggest headline set in Manchester Academy 2. The night of The Academy was special, and felt like the beginning of a propulsion to a greater height.
Since the announcement of their debut album in May, the Hardship Starship has had me wondering if they can produce an LP worthy of lifting their profile to a national, or even astronomical level. Seat belts on, album received, I press play for the first time and I’m ready for take off.
Extra Terrestrial opens the record, launching the listener into front man Isaac’s fascinating perception of the world, supported by the band’s rhythmic and grooving accompaniment. In many ways, this song encapsulates the band very well, from the constant build up of energy to be released in an anthemic chorus to the punny lyrics littered in the verses. A highlight of the humour comes in the second verse, as Isaac exclaims to his lover that she can “work me out quicker than a calculater… 5319009, turn it around” offering a cheeky little quip, to be expected in a NHA tune, and one that shamefully put a smile on my face. If you don’t get it, whack it into a calculator and then work it out.
Second song Car has been unheard upon release, and continues the galactic, romantic poetry that sets a theme from the band. Since the 2016 release of ‘Cool Cat‘, the band have spoke about their aspirations of leaving the somewhat monotonous surroundings of Stockport. In that release, Isaac asks to be taken “where the stars live”, “all aboard the Hardship Starship” being his chosen mode of transport, and it has been through a lot of consistent hard work and persistence with progression to get to where they are – on the verge of something. Despite all the band’s hard work thus far, Isaac still can’t afford a car to “drive his lover to see the stars”, which is perhaps a nod to his previous exclamation of ambition in ‘Cool Cat‘.
Sirens cause alarm at the start of third song Trouble and choppy guitars, comparable to some of the over-driven riffs of Arctic Monkey’s explosive debut, provide a huge wave of energy. The chorus echoes the vocal, falling into the abyss of the powerful instrumentation. This one is sure to explode in the live set, creating a frenzied mosh.
A quick ode to cheap love, Salbutamol is a treat. Isaac experiments with his delivery throughout the record, but this song has a catchy flow that bounces over a jumpy, guitar-pop tune. Breathtaking wordplay in this one, as the front man exclaims he has “onions rings at my place… we can do other things at my place”. Moving swiftly on, a polished re-recording of fan favourite Bellyaches sees an improvement in the vocals and an added depth to the synths in this version of the song. Another relatable anthem follows, with a big chorus in Motion Sick. Continuing the energy, one of my personal favourite lyrics comes in this tune. “I’m as close as can be to determined”, Isaac cleverly and accurately depicts a familiar emotion.
Intermission/Indecision is the most political track the band have ever produced, and they hit the nail on the head with much of the observatory commentary of a broken Britain. The abstract guitar performance devotes itself to the theme of space travel, using high pitched riffs to reciprocate alien-like machinery, somehow mechanised into a grooving pattern.
Prior to this review, I was warned about the danger of the song Ish-ka, and it is clear why. The instrumental is truly mind-blowing and other-worldy. This genre-bending song has elements of rap/spoken word and dub, but the most accurate depiction of this tune I can offer is: it’s a personal monologue, equipped with lazers. Arguably the most personal the band have been, and definitely the most experimental. Then, an encapsulating drum fill kicks off Paradise/Overdrive, and I can compare the feel to this one with The Magic Gang. A certified indie sing-along tune.
W.Y.N.A. was the first offering we were presented from this record, and within the context of the album it feels like a greater release of energy than when previously heard. There is so much to this song, with every element seemingly particularly crafted into a production with an overwhelming feeling of joy. A definite highlight, sure to propel further into the spotlight upon it’s release with the Hardship Starship.
The indie-rocking Hey Casanova ends the album, which is a celebratory finish. Providing one last explosive dance to the Stockport 4 piece’s debut album.
The Hardship Starship is a resounding success, sure to please the already devoted fans, much like myself. With an array of songs to now pick from, I’m certain newcomers to the band will see the charm of No Hot Ashes and tag along to the exciting journey ahead. My favourite experience of the band so far was catching them as part of the Neighbourhood festival at The Ritz in Manchester. Despite an early slot, the band attracted a large audience and the sound smashed the walls off the building. This is why I’m excited to experience that all over again, at September’s headline show. Again, at The Ritz, tickets are still available. With the dedication from the fan base entwined with the undoubted success of this record, it’s going to be a rowdy celebration of the band’s achievements to date.