ROSES ARE RED- Conversations

The Trustkill name maintains a revered place at the head of the US indie label table but despite success stories like Poison the Well and 18Visions has signed some questionable acts of late.

Roses are Red are the new kids on the block and they might become a stumbling one for Trustkill.

'Conversations' feels like a rushed album of half ideas and not quite, nearly there tunes. Vicent Minervino's thin wail smothers every song, sounding suitably Americ-emo but sounding nasally, whiney and reaching.

A thin drum sound doesn't help with fluid, pacey, tunes that could be exciting stuff had it not already been recorded by other bands. 'Oceans' steals from Funeral for a Friend, 'I Apologize' from Taking Back Sunday' and 'You and me Both' from The Used.
And this keeps happening, and will keep happening to bands whose sole influences are the leading lights of the scene they want to be seen in and nothing from dad's record collection.

It makes original moments like '12:34' and 'White and Gold''s rousing chorus really stand out, but like pennies in dogshit rather than jewels in a crown.

Calling out every member of the newer breed of 'hardcore' or 'emo' acts for being fakey, whining, sellouts is becoming something of a journalistic cliche. By all means give Roses are Red a chance, just don't expect anything shiny and new


HATEBREED. Zodiac, Oxford. 14.03.05

It's always seemed a little weird that after ten years of Hatebreed preaching messages of family, friendship and hardcore unity, their fans still insist on beating the shit out of each other. Gang vocal anthems like 'Live for This' and 'I Will be Heard' are screamed back to the band like blood oaths but the blood on show tonight is all too real.

Before the carnage begins the melodic hardcore of Caliban and the spit-soaked sludge of Crowbar do their best to impress. The pit monsters get the chance for a good warm up during Caliban's take on what's currently hot. The amount of energy the five Germans put into their performance explaining why they're so skinny.Crowbar wander onstage like lost Spinal Tappers, like the mess of drunk hillbilly dads they probably are, and begin the most professional of amateur half-hours that the Zodiac has ever seen. They start, fuck up, start again, swear, sweat, and mumble and pretty much rule.

All of which is like a wafer thin mint before the three course meal that is Hatebreed. The squeal of feedback gives way to a three song set-starter and things never dip. The pit is a danger zone from the first note, frontman Jamey Jasta's seemingly never-ending vat of attitude and energy spilling into the crowd. Hatebreed rip into 'Straight to Your Face' and Jasta calls for a warzone. Oxford delivers.

'Call for Blood' and 'Perseverance' keep the tempo tipped maximum and an hour of brutal aggression punches past in what feels like ten minutes. They may be old hands at this but the band show no signs of age, no signs of pandering to any stream let alone the main one and despite feeling a little impersonal the perfomance is nothing less than absolutely professional.


STRAYLIGHT RUN+ The Spill Canvas+ The Junior Varsity. Zodiac, Oxford. 07.03.05

I'm getting too old for this shit. Everyone in the Zodiac tonight looks about 14, but they're probably only 12. The EmoYouth army are out in force, all sideways black hair and 'the biggest belt buckle wins' competitions, far too cool to salivate over the great line-up. Watching these kids grow up and try to get a job with all these shitty tattoos and fresh piercings is going to be interesting.

Anyway, on with the show. And Asa Dawson certainly knows how to win over an audience. The Junior Varsity frontman looks and sounds genuinely excited to be here but wastes no time dealing in patronising American pap, just zeitgeist-humping pop tunes. By the end of the short set the contagious smiles on stage have infected more than half the crowd.
The Spill Canvas are a completely different story. Nick Thomas leads his band through a set of acoustic heartbreak that's thick enough to choke on and despite some clapping along Oxford remains unconvinced.

Now, if you don't know the story of Straylight Run already you're avoiding all the right emo conversations. Abandoning ship (or being made to walk the plank) from Taking Back Sunday, John Nolan and Shaun Cooper decided to sail away to slightly lighter musical seas. The piano keys and vocal harmonies of their new self-titled album being the successful result.

Opening with a fine rendition of 'Mistakes we knew we were making' the band seem much more at ease than when they supported Brand New upstairs. It's a real rush to hear the songs that have been available for download for so long entirely cobweb-free and newer album tracks so full of colour.

There are reference points, especially to the sing-a-long stylings of Taking Back Sunday, but the pace is far more sedate. The electrolisised beats of 'Tool sheds and hot tubs' and bouts of instrument swapping providing suprises. It's going to take a lot more than a few good gigs like this for people to forget the spectre of TBS thats hangs over Straylight Run but this is one small step in a run up for a giant leap.

PRESIDENTS OF THE USA. Astoria,London. 03.03.05

god. like. genius


THE MARS VOLTA- Frances the Mute

If someone walks up to you painted orange, slaps you in the face with a fish, shouts 'I'm weird me' and sprints away they're pretty odd right? Or are they looking for all the attention they can get. What you want to watch out for is the only guy in the crowd who doesn't turn round to watch, what's going on in his head that's more interesting than watching you getting Tango'd? It's always the quiet ones remember.

And this is where I tell you that the new Mars Volta album is a masterpiece of salsa shake 'n' roll, too utterly concerned with itself to care what everyone else is doing. Except, and you know this already, nothing ever goes to plan, this album screams and shouts so loud for your attention in places that it's like watching a grown man piss and shit himself for fun rather than witnessing something truly beautiful.

Don't get me wrong, some of the music here recalls the genius of the first album. Instrumental voices open the album crashing together in an orchestra of deranged stop-start-stop death pop. The second track sounds like a haunted house ride through the afro's of the two men who made this mess and track seven is based around a stunning string section that sounds like a mutated James Bond theme while Cedric Bixler squeals about the worst day of his life. This is the stuff goosebumps are made of.

But, and it's a big but, too much of it meanders and slinks around sounding very sexy but never quite getting anywhere. The moments of pure joy at how good these guys can be are seperated by ineffective devil voices, bad trumpet solos, or a clock-watching jazz odyssey.

When The Mars Volta are good, they are very very good. There are movements here that in the most horribly cliched sense of the phrase, make you 'feel'. For the rest of the 75 minutes this album takes to run they shift from irritating brass-section white-noise to background music for crack pipe parties.

Then again, maybe i just don't get it. Maybe, I just don't do enough drugs.