Sound — 8
Ash suprised us all by delivering the (relatively) heavy single "Clones" with its accompanying video but it would be misleading if you took the single as a sample of the album, in truth "Meltdown" is still what an Ash record is defined by pop (which isn't necesserily a bad thing). The guitar work of Wheeler and Hatherley has improved significantly from previous Ash records implimenting heavier distortion and an array of effects shown in the lead single "Clones", the title track, and "Orpheus". But pointed out in the power-balladish "Starcrossed" and the happy "Out of the Blue", Ash isn't going to change that drasticly (as Radiohead did from "OK Computer" to "Kid A"). For the record, the change in sound is a good thing for Ash; It sets them apart from other British psudo-punkers such as Busted and McFly... to some extent even removing themselves from the danger of genelazition with other pop-punk bands completely.
Lyrics — 6
Tim Wheeler is naive at best when writing his lyrics or just plain uninteligable shown in this sample lyric, "That summer I did nothing/sleeping, drinking, and hanging around" from "Orpheus" and "Revolution with a solution" from the title track, to the bland "Tonight I want you in my arms/It's not the end" from the finisher "Vampire Love". He should've put more thought into it. But the vocals themselves are terrific! Wheeler sings defiantly with his strong voice and doesn't lose his manhood when he's shrieking the high notes as heard in the turnaround in "Clones" and grunts the 'yeah's pefectly. Backed by Hatherley's heavenly backing vocals (of course it's heavenly, she's a frigging girl! ) the mix is just perfect. Very Ash-esque.
Overall Impression — 8
This is the best Ash record to date. Period. Wheeler, Hatherley, Hamilton, and McMurray has churned out a great mix of heavy metal and plain guitar pop without losing the distinct Ash taste that dates back to "1977" (actually released in 1996). One of the best of 2004.