OPEN HAND- You and Me

Open Hand have swapped the dreamy emotional content of the album that they released before imploding for the grungey, dusty, lights and darks of this album, the one they released after getting back together.

'You and Me' is a beating rock heart, a biting, foaming mouth and fingers reaching round a steering wheel manouvering a car through a desert at 80mph. These are songs for the deaf, to be played in the sun- elephantine jam sessions gone wrong, driving rock tracks, and breeze powered vocals that know exactly when to come in.

Open Hand is dead. Long live Open Hand.


HOPESFALL. Mean Fiddler, London. 14.05.05

There are other hardcore bands. Other bands kicking and screaming out of East coast America all relentless verses and choruses that fly higher than the jumbo they got here on. But tonight Hopesfall stand alone.

The bass and drums are heavy and constant, rumbling out washes of noise for the guitars to pick delicate leads or put anthemic melodies over.

Vocalist Jay Forrest has a strong, hypnotic, singing voice and can muster the scene staple impassioned scream but the man is a genuine enigma. Standing still for minutes at a time he nods along to his bands coiling space rock, fixing crowd members with a stare that seems to shift from confontational to embracing in a split second. Just when you're about to question his involvement he dives into the pit, walks over the crowd on people's hands, or leads a healthy clap-a-long.

The set mixes the old, the very old, and the new to great effect. Their contemporary softer sound does nothing to damage Hopesfall's magic or confidence and like all good performances it feels over too fast and leaves you wanting nothing at all but oh, so much more.

Other bands are in this for the chicks or the cash.

Other bands write crappy filler for shitty albums and play sloppy live sets for audiences that don't care.

Other bands aren't Hopesfall.



THE HURT PROCESS- A Heartbeat Behind

Despite the faintest whiff of their nu-metal pasts in the beginning of 'Anchor' and some over-emo choruses that stink of drive-by's and butterflies everything comes up smelling of roses (and metalcore) for The Hurt Process on second album proper, 'A Heartbeat Behind'.

The band have gone through some changes since recording their last album which would explain a shift in sound and a lot of the lyrics here could be tiny barbs at those who can't take the pace and jump ship. Maybe. There's definitely added bite to the music.

The shot of vitriol could be seen as an attempt to hi-jack the latest bandwagon were it not for the variety and quality of the songs. The title track ducks and weaves like Killswitch. 'Anchor', 'Take to You' and 'Delicious 53' are exactly the sort of riff heavy metal the last album needed to balance out the abundance of the 'e' word, while 'Boogie Nights..' and an acoustic number ensure The Hurt Process' damn catchy nature and pop sensibilities shine through. These are all still songs you can dance and 'woo!' to, just bolstered by an improved confidence and better writing.

An album of madness, method, and charm to be admired then. Now go see them absolutely rule live.


EMANUEL- Soundtrack to a Headrush

We need a flood, a wave on a biblical scale, to wash away everything that's not working. We need some sort of scene Noah who gets to decide who sticks around to wear more make-up and make out.
But are Emanuel part of the problem or the beginning of a solution?

'Hotline' starts like Every Time I Die then explores every stop on the garage rock A to Z. The chunked guitars, vocal harmonies and slick production of 'Make Tonight' and the title track sound like Blindside of all people. And the end of 'Breathe Underwater' points to possible teenage Nirvana obsessions.

The sounds are as varied as the influences above but the lyrics and structures get a little formulaic.

I'm not going to argue about punk rock with you. Whether you include The Damned and The 'Pistols or Blink and Good Charlotte or all of them, if you like fast and stuttery, call-to-arms, danceable rock you'll find a tune or two on this soundtrack to prick your ear. Just maybe not with a safety pin.

Pretty soon that wave will come and the world will end. Emanuel don't care, it's time to get down.


GIVE IT A NAME. Alexandra Palace, London. 02.05.05

OK, so every promoter in the country is wishing they'd thought of this first but it probably seemed so impossible, so unbelievable.

Just write a list of every next big thing and name of the moment, get them to turn up and play in a North London venue that probably hasn't seen a rock show for decades, and watch the money roll right in. Simple

Except on arrival to the giant greenhouse that is the Alexandra Palace, it seems as if counting the money, rather than spending a little, is all the organisers have done. There are 8000 people sweating under the glass ceiling, no one is allowed back outside unless that's where they want to stay, and the four bar areas that open with the venue doors at 1 have to close two hours later when the shelves are emptied by the parched crowds that weren't allowed to bring any bottles in. This does not please anyone in the 200 strong queues

It might explain why no one has anything to throw at Fightstar, not that they deserve any of that one bit. Looking alarmingly more like rock stars every time they play, the band breeze through a set of rock by numbers that's full of charm but still lacks bite.

Mae provide a little bit more of the same, but some softer edges and the angelic voice of frontman Dave Elkins help them stand out.

British rock, as always, is playing catch up with the almighty american music machine but, as always, some of us don't give a fuck. The Lucky Nine are such a bunch of likely lads. Everyone seems to wish they didn't have to look so damn cool so they could have a little dance.

Alexisonfire normally shine. Their upbeat tunes, family message, and original take on what's hot turns has previously turned macho mosh pits to dance floor party centrals but today they never quite take flight.

The old and tired debate on mixing politics and punk means nothing as Rise Against rally the troops, new single 'Give it All' raises some roars but not from sore-throated singer Tim. Alexisonfire guitarist Dallas does his good deed by supplying some vocals but apart from the hardcore punk rockers down the front most of the Palace seems uninterested.

Coheed and Cambria have always been the weird ones. Piano-sounding guitar lines, a coffin-tight percussion groove and helium-voiced SOAD-isms make these geeks unique but it does get a little bit jazz odyssey at times. That and the heat seems to making people fall asleep.

The sun has set but the heat remains and despite nearly 5 years of waiting so does the anticipation for new Finch material. and it's a weird one. They sound like Dillinger now, they sound like Minus. Nate Barcalow sounds like a baby monitor distorting the voice of satan and everyone takes a step back. The new songs jar glaringly with the poppy older material which the crowd lap up but the band seem utterly bored with and frustration rears its ugly head with temper tantrums and a broken bass.

There was a tiny doubt whether they deserved it and a slightly bigger one whether they could pull it off but the night eventually belongs to Funeral For a Friend. Someone with their finger on the volume control helps them out a little but FFAF's patented emo rock makes the biggest bang of the night.

The 5 Welsh boys still look and sound 12 years old, their potty mouths extending to making the whole venue scream profanity, but the songs are as catchy as they've always been. New single 'Streetcar' is aired quickly and turns out to be a highlight, all galloping guitars and achy breaky melody.

'Bend Your Arms to Look Like Wings' and 'She Drove me to Daytime TV' are greeted like old favourites, everyone sings back the choruses and even though the band are undoubtedly used to the crowd being louder than them it's a fine moment. It seems like people know most of the new stuff too. You pesky downloaders you.

FFAF continually thank people for hanging around but as last train times loom, the streams of those leaving grow wider, picking their way across festival style piles of shit, yawning but happy.

yeah, what he said