THE CHARIOT-Everything is alive, everything is breathing, nothing is dead and nothing is bleeding

Ex-Norma Jean screamer Josh Scogin is now driving The Chariot, and this thing is out of control. There are elements of all this that came before with NJ but where they have got tighter, added groove and flex, these are listing, sinking ships of songs. The music always seems on the edge of collapse, any tunes that do emerge are quickly flattened by machine gun anti-rhythms and die. This is the soundtrack to a choking, the sound of fingernails. The God bothering is kept to a minimum too.

For fans of Ashlee Simpson. Apparently.


SKIRTBOX. Metro,London. 15.04.05

This is a party and people will cry if they want to.

The Metro basement is hosting the release party for Skirtbox's long delayed new album 'Bitter and Direct'. Having finally given up on finding a major labal home the band have chosen Allstar Recordings to showcase their evolution from skate punks to the poppiest of rockers.

Before all that there are some VIP party guests to meet 'n' greet.Mainline sound like Somerset. Mainline sound like The Cable Car Theory. Mainline sound like Thrice dipped in Jack Daniels by Malboro men. The Bombjacks are back and get feet moving with Weezer harmonies, surf guitars and Moog moments. Neither of these bands will escape London support slot status but both produce perfect alterna-party tunes.

Skirtbox must be sick of looking at the inside of the Metro and apart from a happy happy joy joy performance from bassist Tom Wright the band do look a little bored. Maybe it's because these new songs aren't new at all, The band have been playing 'Heading for the Start' and 'For This Alone' for nearly a year. That doesn't stop them from being head-nodding rock, all of which would fit perfectly on any drive-time compilation if all drive-time compilations weren't shit.

At times Will Stapleton's voice slips into horrible Ville Vallo territory but after the initial shock it works quite well. His smooth croon fitting over Top Gun rock and 80's guitar solos.

Skirtbox could be your new favourite band, Skirtbox could be the new Ataris. Skirtbox should be able to leave High Wycombe houses for LA mansions by the end of the year. Typically, the lack of record label support and cold, hard cash could be crippling but nowhere near as much as performing like workmen rather than rock stars.

ATREYU+ Norma Jean+ He is Legend. Astoria, London. 16.05.04

Bands always disappoint. You can wait in shivering anticipation for a tour like this to come around only for rockstars to act like rockstars and Americans to be just like Americans.

But He is Legend are a revelation, by the end of a short set played by men dressed like tramps, dancing like fools, the Astoria is converted. Shake that thing!

Norma Jean have replaced a singer and added a grungier element to their sound but haven't missed a beat. They fill the stage with tantrum dancing and flying guitars, the sound- screams and hooks riding a death rattle wall of feedback- fills the room. NJ make the show feel like the tiny club dates they're used to playing, it feels like cathartic brilliance.

Atreyu disappoint. Members of the band could be seen before doors taking pictures of the blacker than black queue stretching round the venue, almost as if they themselves couldn't quite believe they had managed to get this big. And on tonight's evidence their success will need way more blind luck to continue.

From first track proper, 'Bleeding Mascara', the sound is the worst of the night and barely improves. The technical touches of 'Deanne the Arsonist' and 'The Crimson' are lost, leaving only straight ahead mosh behind.The band plough through a lacklustre performance pulling all the right moves but seemingly finding no joy in them. Even synchronised guitar moves, party tricks and a cover of 'You Give Love a Bad Name' seem forced a little old. And wearing all white is the oldest gag in the book for bands so often dressed in black.

Atreyu are heralded as leaders of a scene, one of the few that will continue when fashions change but tonight they were outplayed, outclassed and simply undone by bands that are still hungry for that headline slot.

I hope Atreyu were nice to people on the way up.



"Come on, come on" scream The Blood Brothers as the chorus to 'Trash Flavoured Trash' and an invitation to new album 'Crimes', their first for new V2 record label home.

Bruising titles like 'Love Rhymes with Hideous Car Wreck' prepare you for more schizophrenic, loose-limbed, high-pitched, hardcore but this time clash with the sleepy synths and relaxed electronics that pulse round the whole album.

'Rats...' stops, drops and rolls into Ricky Martin territory before becoming a garage riff workout that dies to the sound of Dillinger-esque jazziness.
The title track is a fantastic funerial march through a sanitarium, all out of tune humming, piano, and a lonely picked guitar.

So everything changes, this is still The Blood Brothers though.

The band still create stabbing messes of noise from which impossibly catchy tunes emerge; parts of 'Live at the Apocalypse Cabaret' and 'Crimes' are pure pop music. Their songs still fold together into feedback, telling warped stories with voices that sound like a proper punk rock Jack White and a hyper Marilyn Manson, and no one has taken that drunk away from the piano.

The jarring differences between 100mph thrash punk and catchy piano key melodies make whatever crazy pills the band are taking seem all the more effective. The constant, headache inducing, metallic rush of previous work has gone and 'Crimes' is allowed to breathe, and allowed to run.

"This is a fucking fantasy", or the best nightmare you ever had.



Hard and fast, strained voiced, no guts no glory, kicking and screaming drum roll death rock. Simple, fierce, smoke headed, black hearted, hands in the air, ricochet quick, two stepping punk that paints the state of the world the blackest black and then some. Ace.