Overseas, Ash would be touring in support of its recent best-of, Intergalactic Sonic 7"s, released in the U.K. in September. They'd be pushing their new single, "Envy" (also included on Intergalactic), which wonders what it would sound like if the Undertones heard the same symphony the Supremes did, with its cooing c'mon-babies and cut-throat chords. Over here, however, the group is still trying to get the word out about its last proper album, the sun-kissed Free All Angels, which hit stateside stores a year and change after it sprinted out of the gate across the Atlantic. Five singles from Free All Angels ("Burn Baby Burn," "Shining Light," "Sometimes," "Candy" and "There's a Star") ascended to the upper reaches of the U.K. charts, but in the United States, only "Burn Baby Burn" has had any real heat, and just enough to warm a two-person tent. Which is a shame, because Free All Angels is where pop, punk and perfection come together. "Shining Light" is radio-ready in the best way possible, three minutes of verse vs. chorus that stick in your head like autopsy photos. And that's just picking one out of the bunch; every track on the album is a potential hit. You can't say Ash isn't working hard to turn that potential into reality: Since the band's sure-shot set at South by Southwest in March, it's toured with everyone and anyone, from odd juxtapositions with Our Lady Peace to next-wave British invasions with Coldplay. They're taking a break from their current jaunt with Saves the Day--"Definitely the most compatible band we've toured with," singer-guitarist Tim Wheeler says--to play Texas, and Wheeler hints that they might be back again early next year with a very good and very big band he can't name that is probably even more compatible. Maybe that will finally push them over the top.
If Ash is fairly anonymous in America, singer-songwriter Shon Sullivan is practically invisible. Well, that's not quite true. A few people know who he is. Elliott Smith, for example: Smith asked Sullivan to join his band for his lengthy touring behind 2000's Figure 8, and Sullivan's skill at cello and guitar and piano earned him the nickname (and band name, as it turned out) Goldenboy. On Goldenboy's dazzling debut, Blue Swan Orchestra, Smith returns the favor, adding vocals to "Summertime." Which, more than likely, is why people will initially pick up the album. But if they come for Smith, they'll stay for Sullivan's sad-eyed singing and gorgeous and grand pop songs. And keep coming back.