Much like Weezer did in the U.S., Ash found success in Britain by plumbing the depths of the geek psyche. On its fourth album, Ash has replaced an endearingly awkward obsession with Star Wars mythology and Jackie Chan films with a possibly geekier obsession with the leather-clad dark ages of rock. Lead vocalist Mark Wheeler has always been quite vocal in his praise of Eighties metal, but never before has he so thoroughly embraced the era on record. Meltdown bubbles over with guitar heroics and spoofed machismo. It's nerdiness as imagined by one-time Calvin Klein models -- easy on the ears, if not quite convincing.

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Jonathan Garrett