TENACIOUS D- The Pick Of Destiny

Yeah it’s funny. Of course it is. If you’ve ever giggled at Jack Black’s rock-pomp and ridiculous slapstick before then there’s plenty here to laugh at here. But this is essentially a film soundtrack and, in ‘Break In-City’ and ‘Beelzeboss’ especially, it’s filled with tunes that work best alongside the boys pissing about on the big screen. For best results- See the film. Laugh. Listen to the album. Laugh more- Easy.


:(- First Blood

Somewhere between the melodic flair of the Fuelled By Ramen roster, the chirpy appeal of The Postal Service and the background music to your favourite Nintendo game lie online Aberdeen quartet, :(. The band, pronounced Colonopenbracket for the messenger-impaired, began as a one-man thing but, by the power of MySpace, quickly blossomed into the four-piece behind debut disc ‘First Blood’.

If you have heard a :( song before it might have been the upbeat growls of ‘Syntax’ or the gentle buzzing promise of ‘Gone’, both early efforts from frontman Mart, both indicative of a fresh sound full of promise but, neither included here. The addition of a real live drummer and a thicker, louder production means the quaint appeal of those first tracks is long gone but in its place is a big-time-party vibe and a powerful confidence.

Opener ‘Fake Blood’ has all the same 8-bit bleeps as before but now the mix kicks and screams to take your hand instead of politely asking to dance. It’s like Panic! At The Disco with square eyes and joypads instead of all the silly style and circus pomp. The melodic pulse of ‘Codes’ is destined to be sung back to these boys and gals by thousands, ‘Pre-Emoticons’ is electric indie brilliance and yes, this is all about having fun but if the forlorn rise and rise of ‘Heartache…’ doesn’t do something to the hairs on the back of your neck then you might just be dead inside.

Computer noise and retro chic may be all the rage at the minute but you’d be wasting your time looking for this sort of thing done better elsewhere. Bleeptastic.

Also appears at New-Noise.


People used to be able to know this band was around by actually following the bloody trail of dead. They used to be hard-touring, hard-drinking, punk-rock renaissance men. They used to write records that felt as powerful as a kick to the brain and they could never play the songs live because they were too busy swapping instruments or breaking them over the edge of the stage. They used to sound like the next Sonic Youth. Now though, now they sound like Coldplay.

It’s not quite that bad. First song proper, ‘Stand In Silence’, marries the discord of old to the new-wave sass introduced on last year’s ‘Worlds Apart’ with some success and parts of the title track rock like an absolute bastard. For the most part though all the ear-splitting power has been replaced by folksy indie strum, all the raw vocal passion traded for mild-mannered melodies and in the place of that brain-pounding intensity is the stubbornly sedate pace of a band growing old. Ever so disappointingly gracefully.

Occasionally the softer touches work just as well as all the raggedy volume. ‘Naked Sun’ takes an age to get there but eventually turns into a swarming, orchestral highlight and a cover of Guided By Voices’ ‘Gold Heart Mountain Top Queen Directory’ is a gentle gem of a song. It’s flowery and nice but you can’t exactly smash a guitar to pieces with it. …Trail Of Dead probably behave like proper gentlemen when they play live now too. How dull.

Also appears at New-Noise.


VAUX- Beyond Vice, Beyond Virtue

Major label wrangling nearly killed Vaux. Which would have been a real shame because the band’s second full-length, ‘Beyond Vice, Beyond Virtue’, is amazing. This is an album set to vault the band behind it out of any emo discussion and towards the sort of greatness that Thrice and Thursday now toy with. There are songs that echo artists as varied and interesting as Muse, Radiohead, Refused and Rival Schools but Vaux stamp their own feel on everything. There are acoustic lows, spacey electronic highs and the ghost of some shadowy Wild West bar-band that would make this as dark and disquieting a thing as heard all year if there wasn’t Quentin Smith’s vocal angst and three (!) guitars grinding away here too. The fact that this record has been gathering dust in the Atlantic Records vaults for over a year is a filthy crime but when it makes Vaux megastars, and it bloody well should do, the success will feel all the sweeter. Buy ‘Beyond Vice…’ today and show the fatcats who the boss really is.



And you thought The Dillinger Escape Plan were noisy? Pennsylvania natives From A Second Story Window put those rowdy innovators to shame when it comes to volume of ideas, if not quite in the brilliant execution of them. Will Jackson’s vocals run the gamut from dinosaur roar to smooth croon to an inhaling noise akin to the devil clearing his throat. This is all spewing out over ten-ton-heavy riffs that stop and start at blinding speeds, spidery and frantic leads and warped post-hardcore melodies. Oh and there’s piano, marching drums and some unearthly bell chimes too. There’s no hope of taking over the world with these compositions, they’re too fucking venomous. There’s also not enough genuine quality here to have the Story boys taking on Dillinger for the spazzcore crown jewels just yet. What remains is a dizzying headache and a completely fresh metal experience.

SEEMLESS- What Have We Become

When a band contains former members of Shadows Fall, Killswitch Engage and Overcast you’re going to be onto a metalcore winner right? Wrong. Seemless might have a shred heavy history but the Massachusetts regulars incorporate elements of classic rock, grunge, stoner rock and the sort of swampy sludge you’d get if Queens Of The Stone Age invited Pantera on a 24-hour smoke-out into their sound. Members of whiny bores like Creed, Nickelback and Seether should be strapped down and forced to listen to killer tracks like ‘Numb’ and ‘Parody’ so it can be pointed out exactly what their bands might have sounded like with some heart, soul and a decent-sized pair of balls. Taken as a whole this is even a better album than any disc Audioslave have ever put their name to. Vocalist and former KSE man Jesse Leach sounds overwrought at times and some of the material he is hollering over is a little dry but ‘What Have We Become’ remains a solid album destined to settle in the bottom half of many critics end-of-year top tens. If you own more than one Soundgarden album you owe it to yourself to listen to this band now.



Well produced, snare tight and bulging with belligerence and hate, Cataract are crunching and razor sharp metal through and through. Although lacking some of the raw energy and fresh ideas that the likes of All Shall Perish and The Acacia Strain have recently injected into a somewhat creatively starved scene, these guys stick to what they know best and pile riff onto mosh-worthy riff. It’s a devastatingly perfect background for vocalist Fedi to kick and scream, vent his spleen and indulge in a little fantasy-metal warrior stuff over the top.
Bar that extra twist that would make these guys serious contenders there’s pretty much everything you could want from a heavy ass record here.

DEFTONES. Electric Ballroom, London. 12.10.06

Ok so tonight didn’t start in the best of ways. While waiting to get into this very special ‘secret’ show at the Electric Ballroom, 600 Deftones fans were witness to the best of London’s nightlife. A fight between drunken thugs armed with combat knives and broken bottles spilled into the queue and minutes later a dog attack added to the fun. The atmosphere was… a little tense.

Inside the venue things are much better. There is no support act tonight so nothing to pass the time until Chino and Co. arrive except sweaty-browed trepidation and vein-filling excitement. If you’ve read any music magazine or website at all this year you’ll be familiar with the Deftones’ patchy live record. Sometimes they’re sloppy, looking stoned and bored they have a tendency to mull around with songs until they sound like awful impersonations of the band everyone knows they can be. But sometimes they’re glorious, carving their tunes out of rock and flaying through them like cannon fire. Tonight they lean towards the latter. Tonight, Deftones are flawless.

‘Knife Party’ is a horribly relevant opener but it sounds extraordinary. To see this band this close is marvellous but to hear the way they play is even better. Stef is attacking his guitar, Abe and Chi are rifling through the ‘Tones inventive rhythms and Chino is singing, like an angel, with proper words and everything. This, in industry terms, is known as playing an absolute blinder.

They play a rare ‘Boy’s Republic’, a version of ‘Around The Fur’ that puts goosebumps on goosebumps and, at what was rumoured to be a show booked to work out any kinks in the new material, they play only two newies. One in the rousing, raring shape of ‘Hole In The Earth’ and another with a magnetic run through ‘Beware’. They play ‘Elite’, ‘Lifter’ and then a stunning version of ‘Seven Words’ with the whole Ballroom singing along. And then you look at your watch and an hour has gone by but it only feels like fifteen minutes. And if a part of you isn’t moved by tonight’s titanic version of ‘Change’ then you’re dead inside. Yes even you shirtless macho boys in the pit.

The band finish with ‘RX Queen’, an oddly quiet choice for such an intense occasion but then it’s difficult to decide what they should have played. This group have got such a perfect back catalogue, now one album bigger, that they could have played three more sets and each would have been just as sweet as this one. Book your seats for next year's proper tour now.

The Deftones then, officially better than street crime, dog fights and nearly every other modern rock band on the face of the earth.



Les Georges Leningrad are Poney P, Mingo L’Indien and Bobo Boutin from Montreal. They all play synthesisers. But almost certainly not how you’re thinking they do. This is no all-night disco party. These guys (and one gal) tour with The Locust. This is what Hot Chip would sound like if they covered Slayer. This is a chaotic jumble called ‘petrochemical rock’

From tribal beats, monstrous chanting and alien whale noises to crashing computer sounds, wailing feedback and digital jigsawed beats, the Les Georges trio have been on a mission to mess with your ears for six years now. ‘Sangue Puro’ is their third album and it’ll take anyone who thinks they know about new-rave because they downloaded some Klaxons songs and turn them into a muddy puddle of piss and drool.

The slow-build darkness of the title track, the deformed accordion noise and potty-mouthed rap of ‘Sleek Answer’ and the stomping grind of ‘Lonely Lonely’ simultaneously excel as wild fun and wracked experiments in noise. Which is what makes it so disappointing when the trio stray anywhere close to normality. ‘Skulls In The Closet’ feigns accessibility before dissolving into distorted bass and wicked vocal yelps but ‘Mammal Beats’, even with its cacophony of lions, tigers and bears (oh my!), sounds positively Yeah Yeah Yeahs-ish.

Despite their newfound directness (don’t panic die-hards, it still sounds like a piano apocalypse) only the most warped minds and biggest masochists will get through ‘Sangue Puro’ in one sitting. But I bet it sounds like some sort of violent second coming when they repeat it live.

Also appear at New-Noise


POWERMAN 5000- Destroy What You Enjoy

There must be some credit given to Powerman 5000, if only for soldiering on. At the dreggy end of nu-metal the band’s action punk was a welcome energizer but time has moved on and even more virulent strains of rock have arrived. Instead of trying to play catch up, Powerman (now containing only two original…er, powermen) have resorted to going vintage. It’s not what the band are playing that’s the problem, Wolfmother and The Hives have proven that good ol’ rock’n’roll is still big business; it’s the way they play it. Songs like ‘Murder’ and the title track show promise but elsewhere proceedings are dry, dull and lifeless. With ‘Destroy What You Enjoy’, frontman Spider and co., move further away from the glam rock space-fever that made their name and ever closer to the front of the dole queue. Disappointing.

SHAI HULUD+ Parkway Drive+ Remembering Never. Underworld, London. 02.09.06

It's raining men. No, not like that. There's just a constant stream of bodies flying over the stage as Shai Hulud; hardcore vets returning after a lengthy absence, let rip with another twisted hate anthem. And it's fucking great to have them back doing what they do best.

Before the reformed greats shake off the rust though, another set of Floridians take the stage. Remembering Never have been around a while themselves but this is their first time to the UK and, with a set that relies heavily on new material, they were probably expecting the worst. Any doubts are immediately crushed. The band combine punk, hardcore and social commentary into a boiling mixture that spits out balls of rage like 'For Love Of Fiction' and 'Selma'. Inventive breakdowns and flashes of melody emerge from their wall-of-noise attack and the crowd respond to every note. They are the next heavy band you must hear.

Parkway Drive know a thing or two about heavy themselves. This is the Australians' third visit to the UK in a year and their solid metalcore has never been less than thrilling. So it's a surprise to hear the band misfire tonight. It might be down to a gruelling tour schedule, it might be the quality they're sandwiched between but from a breathless Winston McCall, huffing and puffing where his growl usually dominates, to an underwhelming finish, Parkway get a decent pit going but just aren't at top gear.

Shai Hulud know only one gear. And it's a fast one. While this constant velocity might be the reason the band has never captured a truly sizeable audience, they have clearly been missed. This sold out show, the last in a string of sold out British shows, is testament to their enduring importance. A crowd reaction that embarrasses that of most other hardcore gigs is testament to their unlimited kinetic energy and the electric heat coming off an opening run through 'A Profound Hatred Of Man' testament to the fact that this band can still slice a knife through the cool factor and deliver the goods.

Unlike Parkway Drive's insistent battering or Remembering Never's vitriolic punk, Shai Hulud's razor sharp time changes don't make for great mosh material. Where the headliners truly succeed isn't in providing music to fight to but endless fire, ire and passion. Something the people crowd-surfing and singing themselves hoarse in every corner of the venue knew all along. The shape of hardcore past, present and thankfully now, the future.

Also appears at RockMidgets.


ENSEMBLE- Ensemble

This particular Ensemble, rather ironically, is just one man. French-born Canada-resident, Olivier Alary, started working under the title way back in 1998 with a view to mashing together melodic noise and disjointed pop. He wanted to run delicate musical movements into walls of sound. Eight years later, he might have just perfected his art.

To call this pop music could be stretching it. There's no sugary-sweetness or genre clichés. Sometimes there aren't even hooks, melodies or choruses. Still, this is infinitely listenable stuff. There are waves of rising, mutating radio hiss, there's chirping electronica, almost-folk arrangements and sharp string movements. It all adds to the rising clank of an odd orchestra that should sound cluttered and messy but knits together like some forgotten minimal Múm or Sigur Ros B-side.

There are plenty of guest vocalists here to make up the numbers too. Mileece makes Avary's skipping beats sound awfully close to the summery slop of Zero 7 but the ghostly intonations of Chan Marshall (of Cat Power fame) are fantastic and when Lou Barlow whispers and croons over 'One Kind, Two Minds' it's as good as any of the more alternative material Sufjan Stevens has put his name to.Elsewhere, track-long expanses of wind whistling and wave crashing add satisfyingly safe elements to this ethereal noise that might otherwise threaten to never let you back to Earth again.

Also appears at Rock Midgets.


Watch where you point your finger...

...I Am Hollywood.


Mad as a bag of spoons Americans on the verge of releasing 'Suck Out The Poison', their second long-player. They could be the band that put all this whatever-core to bed.
When they play live they steal shows with the cunning use of having fun- remember when shows used to be like that?
When they play in the studio they come out with all-at-once cute and crazy schizophrenic jams like 'The Seduction' or 'Dixie Wolf'. Hope and pray they tour the UK soon.

STATE RADIO- Us Against The Crown

Politics. With a capital P. The stuff is all the rage these days. What with Green Day and Fat Mike riding the ‘fuck Bush’ bandwagon all the way to the bank it’s clear that dipping a toe or two into the way the world works is now worth more than a clear conscience. There’s money to made in them there polls.

‘Us Against The Crown’ is most definitely a political record. There are songs about the ongoing war in Iraq, the importance of voting and the rights of the poor, elderly and disabled. For State Radio though, this isn’t about shifting units, it’s about trying to create awareness and make some changes. This isn’t marketable pop or headline-stealing spleen-venting punk either. The main sound of ‘Us Against The Crown’ is laid-back rock and reggae. Like Matisyahu recently, this band condenses their woes into soft-groove radio-fodder. It’s the sort of smooth-on-the-outside, hard-on-the-inside mix that will have people flicking through the lyrics booklet to double check they just heard such vehement comment amongst such laid-back music.

The sunny sound means this can’t possibly be all doom and gloom. And in fact, if you search a little deeper, there are a few looks towards the promise and potential of the future (presumably a future where everybody listens to State Radio) and even a song about love. It’s in these moments though that the band display their worst qualities, sounding as dull as Audioslave, like Rancid at their least effective or worse, like happy-happy-joy-joy chart-monkey Jack Johnson. These are defiantly vintage licks though. Which, while very warm and pleasant sounding and valiantly in line with the music’s age-old inspiration, don’t exactly inspire feelings of revolution. More like feelings of falling asleep in a hammock somewhere in the nice part of Jamaica.

There is room for State Radio to really blow up. Hell, if Rage Against The Machine were around today they’d be the biggest band in the world. But it’s Rage’s vitriolic, impacting and immediate messages and not this band’s quiet mumbles that are really needed. There’s nothing terribly wrong with State Radio’s sound but rebellion has never sounded so redundantly nice.

Also appears at Rock Midgets


ROSES ARE RED- What Became Of Me

Time was not on the side of Roses Are Red. Emerging in 2004 the New York five-piece had the much-lauded Trustkill Records stamp but garnered little acknowledgment. This was just another screamo band, never to be heard from again. At least that’s what most people thought. RAR frontman, Vince Minervino, had other ideas though. Back with a new line up the singer has helmed his band towards a new sound. Think Jimmy Eat World instead of Atreyu, Foo Fighters rather than From Autumn To Ashes. They still struggle to cement an identity of their own but with Minervino’s much improved voice and a penchant for emotional depth where hardcore hissyfits used to be, success is much closer for Roses Are Red. There’s no glaring errors here, no duff tracks, just a collection of solid rock songs. And, unbelievably, it’s easier to listen to than the latest Crash Romeo, Matchbook Romance or Eighteen Visions albums.


RAZORLIGHT- Razorlight

Jesus Christ, Johnny Borrell is a gobshite. But wait, take a breath, don't base your opinion of Razorlight's music on the delusional, self-obsessed ramblings of their lanky, smug frontman. Oh, alright go on then.

There are ten tracks here sure to appeal to the obedient indie masses but for everybody else the appeal of Razorlight will remain a mystery. 'In The Morning' has a chorus hook that's as welcome as 'flu but unfortunately just as catchy, next single 'America' does a mediocre musical impression of U2 at their most musically mediocre and there might even be a flash of a decent melody in 'Los Angeles Waltz' but that's really stretching. Everywhere else it's half-arsed guitar strum, spineless drive-time drang and sixth-form-poetry style rhyming couplets ahoy. This is dreary middle-of-the-road pub-rock that panders to every evil vice the radio demands. Horrible.


SUCIOPERRO- Random Acts Of Intimacy

Chemistry. One of those classes at school where the teachers always smelled funny but something essential to the making of a great band. Scottish quartet Sucioperro have chemistry. By the bucket load. After listening to 'Random Acts Of Intimacy' it wouldn't be a surprise to learn that they had regular group hugs or something like that. From first note to last here Sucioperro sound terribly together.

But don't get too comfortable. Impatience and audacity and talent butt serious heads throughout Random Acts.... It's not down to immaturity, but the knowledge that a little twist and a few turns make for a thrilling ride. All of which means while 'Wolf Carnival' and 'Dialog On The 2' twitch and fidget like Biffy Clyro or Minus The Bear, 'I Don't Hate...' and 'Tem V Com' are rock and roll belters. Then 'Grace And Out Of Me' does both, meandering down a gentle mathy road before exploding like prime Rage Against The Machine. It's the sort of songwriting skill that regularly leaves you wondering what the hell just happened, how the hell the band got away with and why the hell you so badly want to hear it again.

It might be too heavy for Franz fans, too fey for the hardcore fraternity, even too polite to turn top industry heads but that's their loss. Experimentation, drama, power, dexterity and that chemistry stuff abounds. On this evidence Sucioperro need just a touch more fire and maybe one more album to go over the edge into Muse-like realms of quality. That or medical help.

Also appears at RockMidgets.


KOUFAX- Hard Times Are In Fashion

Hard times may be in fashion but quirky spiky indie isn’t doing too bad for itself either. On this, their fourth release, Koufax harness the sort of new-wave pop prowess that has driven Hot Hot Heat and The Killers to the big time. They have the American accents, the skinny-legged style and even some talent; they can do smirking balladry and dancefloor rock with equal aplomb. There’s a piano in there too, but this is no Keane type thing, the tinkling actually adds a different accent to the usual lip-pouting hip-shaking mixture.

The ivories aren’t the only thing marking Koufax out from the pack either. The way ‘Five Years Of Madness’ puts the pedal to the metal will turn heads, the haunting, queasy drama of ‘Stephen James’ will turn them back again and is that a country twang hidden under lead single ‘Isabelle’. That there’s some meaty social and political comment bubbling away (and occasionally boiling over on ‘Blind Faith’) under such charming dark pop only makes it better. However while there’s familiar comfort in the Bloc Party bop of ‘Her Laughter’ or the Strokes style slacker banter of ‘Get Us Sober’ the songs here rarely take on a life of their own. And so it goes that after all that good stuff, there’s nothing to seal the deal.

Koufax probably throw some killer parties and god knows ‘Hard Times…’ would make decent background music to the next shindig at yours, but, with a noticeable lack of hit single material, the band need still more time to crack superstardom. It will come though, it will.

Also appears at Rock Midgets.



Regina Spektor used to actively repel any comparisons to chart-humping drama queens just by being Regina Spektor- her beautiful and clever yet naïve-sounding voice always running in different directions to the minimalistic music she made but fitting perfect all the same. Those days are gone. ‘Begin To Hope’ finds the Russian born New-Yorker caving in to whatever sort of pressure got to Alanis Morrisette years ago. ‘Better’ sounds like a Bon Jovi cast-off, there are Euro beats crashing into each other everywhere else and by ‘Edit’ it’s all starting to sound horribly similar. ‘Samson’ is the exception, sounding like a mainstream radio hit, a smoky backroom sing-a-long and a lonely confession all at the same time. And only ‘Fidelity’ retains the valuable majesty of before. You can mourn the quirks and out-of-this-world oddness that Spektor previously did so well but the biggest shame is the loss of her fantastic rainbow-coloured personality. Another one bites the dust.


BUILT TO SPILL- You In Reverse

Built To Spill singer/guitarist/all-round main man Doug Martsch has kept the world waiting five years for another BTS record. There were fears that his band’s Neil Young and Sonic Youth inspired sound might have become too slow and too snug to still matter but apparently 15 years in the game means you know a little something about the rules.

Martsch doesn’t hold back on any count. This isn’t a rowdy record but it does move in fantastically mysterious ways. There are great expanses of looping, overlapping instrumentation that go for minutes without vocals. When the words do arrive they are tender and memorable. There is a myriad of guitar sounds and quick, challenging sets of mood swings. It all adds up to some great tunes. It might clock in at eight minutes but ‘Goin’ Against Your Mind’ sounds like the neatest of jam rock. Up against the more muscular and distorted indie riffery sits the melancholy wonder of ‘Gone’, ‘Just A Habit’ and ‘The Wait’. At times the record feels half-hearted, drifting too far into dreary dream-pop territory but the gorgeous moments of ‘Conventional Wisdom’ and ‘Liar’ reel the whole thing back in.

If you fancy finding out where Death Cab, The Shins and Arcade Fire stole all their secrets from, you could do worse than start investigating here.



Officially nothing to do with Russia or its circles, the three Chicago natives behind ‘Enter’ deal in instrumental rock that fidgets and fits in the best of ways. That the six tracks here take more than fourty minutes to unwind points to the post-post-rock (where will it) end of things but there’s haste, speed and an amplified fire here that means the ‘Circles are much more than another Mogwai photocopy. These tunes go from the complex shimmy of early Tool to the gentle loveliness of Joan Of Arc to the sheer doom attack of Motorhead. Couple that with the straight up Will Haven-esque ‘Death Rides A Horse’ and you have the perfect example of instrumental music for people that don’t really like instrumental music. And a gem of a record for people that do.

Also appears at New-Noise


SILENT CIVILIAN- Rebirth Of The Temple

Johnny Santos spent six years fronting Spineshank. Though that band would never escape their ‘baby Fear Factory’ tag they did write some killer tunes. Santos jumped from the sinking nu-metal ship a couple of years ago but is now back in action with Silent Civilian and this new group are a heavier prospect all round. At the centre ‘Rebirth of the Temple’ is the sort of heavy metal that’s made Machine Head’s name. Unfortunately though, instead of concentrating on power, energy and writing defiant anthems, the ‘Civilian favour more of the fashionable metalcore flavours that have been heard already. By everyone. Everywhere.

It’s not terrible stuff. ‘Funeral’ kicks things off as neatly as anything from the last Trivium, God forbid or Caliban albums but therein lies the problem. There is nothing here that hasn’t already been done better somewhere else. The kick drums go into overdrive for the bludgeoning intro to ‘Divided’, there’s great Metallica-esque twiddly bits on ‘The Song Remains Un-Named’ and Santos’ knack for a vocal melody creeps through during ‘Bitter Pill’ and ‘Blood Red Sky’. But, there’s always that awkward feeling that the band have been reading over metalcore’s shoulder and stealing what they think are the right answers. And, at 13 tracks, some pushing seven and eight minutes long, it doesn’t half go on a bit. Hell, even Spineshank were smarter than this.

So, while there’s nothing really wrong with what Silent Civilian have done here, ‘Rebirth…’ is destined to sink without trace.


THURSDAY. Zodiac, Oxford. 26.05.06

It’s been nearly two years since Thursday were last in the UK and even longer since any new material. So after a lengthy wait the New Jersey sextet (now featuring keyboardist Andrew Everding full-time) return for a flying seven-stop run with cracking new album ‘A City By The Light Divided’ in tow.

With all that time off, new songs to learn and this being the first night of the tour, the band could be forgiven for sounding a little rusty but apparently Thursday have a point to prove. The gunshot drumming, buzzsaw guitars, layered vocals and Everding’s added dimensions mean the set sounds huge. Geoff Rickly looks healthier than he has in years and throws himself into tunes like crowd favourite ‘For The Workforce, Drowning’ and new single ‘Counting 5-4-3-2-1’ with equal reckless abandon. Quality levels don’t drop an inch throughout but it’s not until they play flawless renditions of ‘Cross Out The Eyes’ and ‘Jet Black New Year’ you realise how essential this band remain and just how much their passion and honesty is missed. And nobody here would swap this show for front row tickets to the next Aiden gig, not for anything in the world.

CITY AND COLOUR+ Jacob's Stories. Camden Barfly, London. 25.05.06

Dallas Green never even saw this coming. His self-confessed ‘soft songs’ were only supposed to be for him to play, to help him work through some issues or jam the kinks out of tunes for his day job in Alexisonfire. They weren’t supposed to be flown around the world and performed in front of awe-filled and attentive audiences. But that’s how it is.

Despite the early doors (enforced so that 65 Days Of Static, playing upstairs tonight, don’t thud the show to death from above) the Barfly is full. Which means plenty of people get to hear Stuart Lee’s Radiohead-ian brilliance. Alone on stage but armed with keyboard, drum machine and the Jacob’s Stories moniker, it’s the mantra piano of ‘A Night With Steve’, hypnotic chirping of ‘Unfinished Idea’ and lilting but commanding nature of Lee’s voice that deserve to make the man a millionaire.

None of this is about the big bucks though. When the headliner has to squeeze through the crowd to get to the stage and tune his own guitar, a Chris Carrabba-type confessional is clearly not on the cards. Green doesn’t even cut a very demanding figure once he’s up there; in fact he looks a little dazed, like he still can’t believe that people want to see him this way. It’s his songs that compel all the attention. In between digs at the British transport system and the LostProphet’s ‘interesting’ haircuts tunes like ‘Hello, I’m In Delaware’ and ‘Comin’ Home’ are transformed. Fragile ballads on CD are stretched out into powerful moving tales, infused with genuine heart and real tragedy. During ‘Save Your Scissors’ Green asks the crowd to sing but few people do, eager to get the man himself back to the microphone. That he can do this; talk to the crowd with good humour, modesty and respect, and never miss a beat during heartfelt performances of ‘Sometimes’ and ‘Missing’, is enchanting.

The city was London and the colours were vivid and sharp. Even if Green never meant it to be this way, tonight was simply breathtaking.


DEAD TO FALL- The Phoenix Throne

Much like Giant Haystacks, Chicago metallers Dead To Fall are very heavy, probably quite imposing in the flesh and capable of delivering all sorts of killer moves. Unfortunately just like professional wrestling there doesn’t seem to be any real feeling behind the violence of 'The Phoenix Throne'. ‘Chum Fiesta’ could be used to induce heart attacks and ‘Heroes’ is classic sweaty thrash but beyond the tough exterior this is a band only play fighting.



Kids these days. Forming in Canada at the tender age of 14, Protest The Hero have spent the last two years working on this, their debut album proper. Now 19 and with tours alongside Every Time I Die, The Bled and The Fall Of Troy under their belts and an upcoming UK tour and appearance at Download to look forward to they’re planning to make as much of a splash here as they have in their home country.

It’s easy to see why they’ve made an impact. This is a thrill-splattered combo of Coheed’s dizzying heights, As I Lay Dying’s numbing rumble, the murderous garage groove of new Every Time I Die and the breathtaking gallop of old Iron Maiden. The vocal inflections match all the musical madness too. Rody Walker’s high tone initially sticks out but soon seems like the only thing that would work, there are gang vocals, spoken and screamed back-ups and even a beautiful female croon.

Diversity like this is certainly striking, the musicianship is mind-boggling for some so young, but it’s often confusing. On first listen there is little here to really grab onto. ‘Nautical’ and ‘Blindfolds Aside’ are stuffed with memorable melodic hooks and ‘Turn Soonest…’ slows spectacularly from speedy metal thrashing to eerie spoken word passages to bruising metalcore to soft pop-like melodies and back again but elsewhere it gets too much. ‘Bury The Hatchet’ is crushingly heavy and ‘She Who Mars The Skin Of The Gods’ is impressive for sure but they ride too many genres, only settling down to create something memorable for moments at a time. The highlights here aren’t tracks but fleeting minutes and seconds.

It’s nowhere near a total failure though. You may need a degree in mathematics to keep proper time with it but ‘Kezia’ is a mighty fine first full-length and a solid sign of greatness to come. Protest The Hero remain paupers to the princes of Between The Buried And Me and The Red Chord but with time and this, a more dynamic and softer option, on their side, they could get very big indeed.

Also appears at Rock Midgets



Finished with the hype, over the half-minute punk noise and done confusing the hell out of White Stripes fans, Whirlwind Heat have managed to knuckle down and produce the ‘Reagan’ EP.

There is magic abound; Beck-like vocals simmer nicely, anybody using a kazoo nowadays deserves top marks, ‘I Fucked Up Reagan’ would sound great round a campfire and the drum punch drive of ‘Memory’ raises excitement levels a notch or two but there are bands in garages down your street that have produced more memorable work than the title track and ‘Macho Man’ here. Let’s hope this is less a taster for upcoming album, ‘Types Of Wood’, and more designed to lull the world into a false sense of safe indie security before Whirlwind Heat become the new Strokes.



The first release on Lambgoat Records (sprung from the scene-leading website) will be Lye By Mistake’s second widely-available CD. Their first, ‘The Fabulous’ EP, clears up exactly why the fledging label decided this band should be their flagship. Intense, frantic and almost hysterical with content, the songs here bend, twist and melt from harrowing death rattles to eerie jazz segments to rippling thrash riffs. If the band on the Titanic were given crazy pills and electric guitars and broken amps they would have sounded like this. Incendiary.

PITCHSHIFTER+ Skindred. Astoria, London. 24.03.06

Ok, so Pitchshifter went on ‘indefinite hiatus’ rather than going the whole hog and actually splitting up but there’s surely only so many times they can do this reunion show thing and not have it become a joke.

Forgetting that particular hurdle for a minute and looking from the outside in the show looks like most other Pitchshifter shows; a varied crowd here to see a well-stocked line-up of all-British bands, support bands that the headliners have talked up themselves, and a line-up totally and absolutely refreshingly removed from anything emo or hardcore or metalcore or whatever you core it.

Despite, or perhaps because of, their schizophrenic sound (reggae-punk-metal-jungle-hip-hop anybody?) Skindred have spent years in the toilet-touring-circuit wilderness but are finally getting the attention they deserve. After slightly subdued receptions for Murder One and This Is Menace the crowd’s reception for the Welsh wanderers could have you thinking this is their headline show. Benji Webbe is a natural frontman but the band behind him also play with a massive self-confidence rattling through re-mixed and re-jigged versions of bouncing tracks like ‘Nobody’ and new single ‘Pressure’ with impressive flair. But that’s what breaking America does to a band.

After that Pitchshifter need to take off like a rocket but to start with the band are sluggish, nervous perhaps, but definitely mired in the awful Astoria sound. It takes almost three songs until a glorious rendition of ‘Eight Days’ clears the cobwebs, hell, it damn near lifts the roof off and from there on it’s business as usual.

The reason the band have hung around so long, the reason demand for them has never really dipped, is made fantastically clear in the songs they play. Running through their truly innovative and hugely varied back catalogue they supply favourites like ‘Microwaved’, ‘We Know’, ‘Hidden Agenda’ and ‘Genius’ alongside a crushing ‘Triad’ and the industrial smash and grab of ‘Virus’. Breakbeats skitter, guitars squeal and grind, bass rumbles, the drums sound fantastic and the show flies by with people singing and dancing (not beating the crap out of each other in the pit) all round the venue. A closing ‘W.Y.S.I.W.Y.G’ sums up the band; fast, loud and eight years after it was recorded, still sounding bloody vital.
There’s the usual showmanship from frontman J.S and whirlwind of headbanging from the rest of the band but where this could’ve been a joke Pitchshifter play tonight free from hyperbole. They don’t turn every song into a ceremony and there are no gimmicks, just another great gig. Hurdle leaped. Now don’t leave it so long next time.

Also appears at New Noise



There are so many good points here. Embrace Today’s second album holds 12 short, sharp songs that never outstay their welcome, there’s the ferocious drum-pounding of ‘Sing Me a Lullaby’, the ethereal female backing vocals on ‘Diamonds are Forever’ and the slower intensity of the title track. But, and it’s a big one, this is still generic straight-ahead hardcore. While it’s thankfully not be in any way ‘emo’ it does rant and rage about topics covered a million times over in songs that, if you own anything by Sworn Enemy, Champion, or Bane, will sound awfully familiar. Deathwish may well be a label that doesn’t need great strength in depth to succeed but when it comes to ET and ‘We Are The Enemy’ there just aren’t enough flourishes.


DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE+ John Vanderslice. Oxford Brookes SU, Oxford. 11.03.06

Oxford is about as far as you can get from the OC tonight; there are definitely no palm trees around, everyone's too wrapped up under scarves and gloves to work on their tan and it's bloody freezing. Seth Cohen would probably die instantly. But inside the Brookes University union Death Cab For Cutie only have two kinds of songs, love songs and summer songs- it's with that last kind that they bring California to the UK- great, catchy-as-all-hell, irresistible melodic slices of it. Tracks like 'Marching Bands' and 'Settling' simmer with the kind of heat you only get from sunstroke or a packed out gig.

But they're not the only ones that mess with the musical temperature gauge. On record John Vanderslice is another broken balladeer, moping lonely about suicide and fruitless dreams, but with the aid of a full backing band tonight his songs are transformed. They maintain their indie feeling but become the subtlest of guitar-pop, all breathy harmonies and handclaps, and every clever vocal or keyboard hook acts as the perfect warm-up for Death Cab.

The headliners have been on tour for six weeks now so they could be forgiven for forgetting what home looks like, let alone be able to sing about it, but for many of the collected emo faithful Death Cab are quiet, unassuming heroes and the greeting they get could inspire the dead. The band are on top form too, tight and hard, heavier than on record with frontman Ben Gibbard's voice cutting through the songs rather than floating over them. New single 'Crooked Teeth' gets a huge reaction, suggesting the bands' star is still on the rise, 'New Year' and 'Different Names' are emotional highlights and the seamless swapping of instruments and jokes with the crowd prove there is a sense of humour in there too.

Sometimes the band don't quite click, they've never looked or sounded like they should be playing in rooms this size. They never quite 'rock' either and stick to formula a little too often, including Gibbard's samey tone, which means songs mix into each other, but still there are thrilling highs and chilling lows. When Gibbard returns for an acoustic encore the room is totally silent except for those singing along, and it's moments like that, when the connection between band and audience is strongest, that Death Cab For Cutie make perfect sense.


CAVE IN+ Jacob's Stories. Zodiac, Oxford. 06.03.06

It's difficult to use up all of the English languages' positive adjectives in one review but here goes.

How often does someone chatting over your shoulder ruin a perfectly good gig? Well for Jacob’s Stories it kind of makes sense, if only because they are so fantastically, amazingly brilliant their ethereal and angelic tunes block every other sound out.

Having taken many forms in the past, all revolving around one Stuart Lee, tonight JS are a two person band with Lee's light but utterly captivating vocals augmented by his own beats and synths and accompanying violin player. They craft the stuff of egg-sized goosebumps, the sort of music that allows you to think that everything’s going to be OK. By the middle of their set, no one is talking within 15 miles of the Zodiac. Probably. Inside at least, everyone is listening.

After that, Cave In could have seemed brutish and clumsy. Well, after that, any band could, but although they inhabit the exact opposite end of the volume knob, Stephen Brodsky and company make music that appeals to the heart and the soul and for all the same reasons. Despite their near flawless evolution from hardcore screamers to drone rock balladeers and back again, Cave In remain criminally underrated. However, the chance to catch them and their moving, affecting songs this close up is a rare thing indeed. But rarity, it seems, is to be the norm tonight.

Cave In are ill. Brodsky's voice cracks and squeaks, he coughs his lines and stops to sip lemon juice. It shows but it doesn’t matter. They are a piledriver, a heady rock band but with a coach-sized spirit, a wealth of talent and a veritable treasure chest of songs to choose from. They jam riffs, thinking what they can play that might save some tonsils and they make up the set list as they go, advised by non-stop requests. They pick out gems like 'World Is In Your Way', 'Trepanning', 'Off to Ruin' and 'Dark Driving', songs that other bands would kill for, and toss them out to a steadily more receptive crowd. And when Brodsky’s voice finally blows out on ‘Big Riff’ and he asks Stuart Lee to the front the result is magnetic. Singer-less and sick Cave In are still magnificent

It may sound like clunky, karaoke, Spinal Tap-like hell but this was once in a gig-going lifetime stuff, the sort of thing that will never ever happen again.

Breathtaking. Exceptional. Perfect.

DOOMRIDERS+ November Coming Fire+ Shaped By Fate. Furnace, Swindon. 04.03.06

Self declaring 'the best band in the world', The Doomriders are in fact just plain not very good. What they do have is Nate Newton, and the promise of a member of Converge on show in close quaters like these is always going to sell a few tickets.

But before all that, let's get the quality musicianship out of the way.

After an unenthusiastic review of their debut EP, Shaped By Fate suggested their new material would make me eat my words, well, someone pass the salt. The band have always made a mockery of their recorded output with their live show and if their next release has harnessed the jagged energy flowing through the new songs aired tonight there will be simply no stopping them.

A departing crowd seems to suck the life out of November Coming Fire (but whether they leave to nurse SBF-inflicted pit-wounds or steer clear of the now terribly-unfashionable NCF boys is unclear). A shame because their music, once the stuff of many many other bands, has mutated into, admittedly mostly mosh free, but brilliantly dark riff-led noise. Now more Mastodon than Norma Jean they are infinitely inventive and thrillingly refreshing and therefore go down like a band without a MySpace account.

You can excuse people for walking to the front to take a picture of the Doomriders mainman and then buggering off back to the bar, especially when the band seem so amateur after what's gone before. They start and fuck up and start again but do nothing that you couldn't already find on any Black Sabbath or Misfits album. The thing is, unlike the band before them, Doomriders couldn’t give a shit what Swindon thinks and while they might not play their sludgy skate-punk rock-and-roll note perfect they do it with reckless abandon- an attitude and style that sucks people from the back of the room, throwing their fists and dancing like metalcore never happened.

Apparently there’s nothing like good, but possibly not very clean, fun to make the scene look utterly ridiculous.

VIATROPHY+ No Made Sense+ Outcryfire+ Embalmed Alive. Phatz Bar, Maidenhead. 02.03.06

From the outside in, Maidenhead looks alright. It's green, gracious and not exactly fast-paced but tonight it throws up four bands that seem more than a little pissed-off. What exactly is there to be mad about?

The fact that Embalmed Alive arrive onstage taking longer to introduce their songs than actually play them should only endear them to metal fans everywhere. Theirs is a furious mix of grind, thrash and hardcore that, when they work out how to make a proper show of it, could go down very well indeed on many bigger stages.

Outcryfirestomp and groove like vintage metal should, but quite how five teenagers manage to sound so damn, well… old, is remarkable. Some of their set hammers hard enough to grab the attention but elsewhere they find the gear marked 'plod' all too easily and take just a little too long to get the point of their songs across.

No Made Sense begin as a thrilling prospect but suffer almost the same pacing problems. They've fired their horribly fashionable lead singer and in guitarist Leo have a superstar in the making but the now three-man unit still churn out the same screaming metal without much change in tempo and wading through flowery minutes of widdling guitars and pointless sludge is never fun.

Viatrophy have all the right moves; the players are obviously talented and singer Adam is suitably violent, but their metalcore is equally difficult to enjoy as too often their fantastic, mammoth riffs are interrupted by attempted atmospherics. If they can reign in the desire to make every song a tribute to Unearth, start firing on all their own cylinders and their genre retains its bankable market, they have the ability to turn heads on a national scale.

Local scene shows can only go a few ways, occasionally throwing up real gems but normally producing self-conscious or self-important shit. Tonight fell somewhere in the middle, revealing nothing too special, but proving that there's enough rage, even in a conservative, middle-class commuter town like Maidenhead, to form the odd band, and get a few people to come along to a show or two. Wish you were here?


KID DYNAMITE- Four Years In One Gulp DVD

Boasting family ties with Lifetime, Good Riddance, Ink and Dagger and Paint It Black, Philadelphia’s finest, Kid Dynamite, were something of a hardcore punk institution before they even played a gig. The fact that their last show was barely four years later is something lamented by most of the people on board ‘Four Years In One Gulp’. The DVD charts the trials of refining a nervous group of friends (grainy basement footage) into sweat-soaked and sturdy performers (bigger and better venues with Alkaline Trio) by way of far too many hours on the road, hours and miles that would eventually end the band (until the momentous reunion shows). It’s obvious KD meant everything to the people in the right place at the right time; this just gives the rest of us a chance to catch up.


WE ARE SCIENTISTS. Fez Club, Reading. 14.02.06

Somebody booked this an age ago. We Are Scientists have sold out the Astoria two nights in row on their upcoming April tour but tonight they play a club about the size of your living room, surely the setting for gig-of-a-lifetime stuff. The fervour of people's conversation revolving entirely around the three Scientists and their all-catchy debut album, the smell of those sweaty fans straining to get close to the band, the screams of their voices drowning out the music, every word sung in unison, this is how the Fez is supposed to be tonight.

Except something's gone horribly wrong. Even when the band play their hits, songs that have been clogging up MTV2 for weeks like 'It's A Hit' and 'Nobody Move', well, nobody moves. There are some half-hearted hand wavers and the odd camera flash but there's no dancing, no choir of loved-up couples (it's Valentine's, people), nothing.

To their credit, the band seem unfazed and with the aid of a sharply accurate sense of humour, some killer tracks (including a cover of 'Be My Baby' from Dirty Dancing) and some bad-ass moves do eventually get a reaction and if anybody had stayed still during a closing 'The Great Escape' they may as well have been declared dead at the scene.

This could have been an event; a last shot at catching close-up the breath of cool that We Are Scientists provide. As it is most of this crowd thought they themselves were all the rage, either for pulling a fast one on real fans and snagging tickets here or just for their new shoes.

Whatever happened, a massive chance went begging.


JOHNNY TRUANT+ Waterdown+ Architects. West End Centre, Aldershot. 13.02.06

Apparently Aldershot is a glutton for punishment. Booking Johnny Truant to play anywhere means reinforcing the walls but when they've got this much fire in their bellies and a crushing new album to showcase it's like asking for a demolition order. And getting German hard(core)men Waterdown and Brighton new boys Architects to join them only increases the size of the wrecking ball.

High on talent but low on fashion, whole tours like this can end up playing to the proverbial one man and his dog but as the devastation begins the West End Centre is almost full. There's not much movement in the crowd though, maybe it's cold feet, maybe it's cold everything; it's bloody freezing outside, or maybe people are just stunned by the sheer ferocity on show. Architects, including a manic lead singer and guitarists who are apparently robots, flay the shit out of their songs, gleaming slabs of scything and technical metal. The technicalities don't distract from how much fun the boys are having or how heavy they play and on the basis of tonight's cuts their new 'Nightmares' album is going to be stunning.

Waterdown are having a blast too. Despite being roundly ignored in the UK, even in the face of three albums worth of fantastic riff-driven, choppy hardcore, tonight they bring the party. There are glitters and streamers and dance moves and singers getting in people's faces and even a Refused cover but still they find it hard to get the crowd going. They don't hold it against us though, unless somebody can translate German and find out what they really think.
What Johnny Truant think is that their rightful place is on the front cover of your new favourite magazine, that they should be touring with Metallica, that it's their time now, and if it hasn't quite happened just yet it's surely only a matter of time.

The new material is explosive, the crowd lap up the real metal behind Truant's grinding hardcore and the band are loving it too. Singer Olly collapses and tenses like he's got mains current for blood and his voice may be frightening but there are smiles all round.

'I Love You Even Though You're A Zombie Now' and 'The Bloodening' sound massive and through all the lyrics of drugs and sex and death the band laugh and joke and put on a real show. 'Realist Surrealist' and 'Throne Vertigo' are quick-fire mosh rockets spinning the crowd into a frenzy and an extra guitarist thickens up the abrasive sound until it rumbles like a bee behind your eyes and when the band click into a groove or ride a riff until it dies they look triumphant.

Tonight felt like metal shows used to, when it didn't matter how tight your jeans were and you didn't have to be po-faced to be heavy. Tonight was a lesson in how to make music that sounds like 1000 dying screams, fun.

Also appears at New-Noise



Maybe the past is the best place to start. Rocky Votolato used to be in the too short-lived Lying On Loot. When they broke up he played guitar and sung in eternally unsung indie rockers Waxwing. Rocky’s younger brother, Cody, used to play guitar there too but The Blood Brothers stole him away.

Maybe not. Forget all that. Skip to the present. ‘Makers’ is Votolato’s fourth solo album, a point he has reached with no money behind him, little critical mention and few album sales. Now, you don’t get so far, off so little, without doing it for all the right reasons and being entirely comfortable with your sound.

The sound here is the easy part. ‘Makers’ is mostly-acoustic folk rock with a genuine soul and aching heartbeat that’s refreshingly emo-free and expands so much further than man-with-guitar melancholy. These are stories, tracks utterly untouched by the noise of your new favourite band but imbued with the spirit of cigarettes, whiskey, Mark Lanegan and The Beatles.

The hard bit is understanding why Votolato has remained so ‘underground’ (read ‘unheard’) because there’s plenty here to get wrapped up in. ‘White Daisy Passing’ is a quiet, weary, travelling tale built on beautiful harmonies that sets the tone for the entire album and ‘Wait Out The Days’ is somehow dark and uplifting at the same time.

Elsewhere, swathes of simple harmonica and piano, rippling electric guitar and light percussion make their own tender marks but all these songs are gentle peeks into Votolato’s personality. On highlights ‘Goldfield’, ‘Portland Is Leaving’ and ‘Tinfoil Hats’ you can almost hear the road dust stuck in his throat. It’s not quaint or rootsy, it’s chilling and moving and fucking great.

So to the future. It might be that Votolato is a little too grown-up to be down with the kids and too honest, too raw to appeal to fans of Dashboard Confessional and the like but he is certainly not expecting to get rich and famous off these 12 songs. If you’re listening that’s great, but he’s singing to get the demons and tales out of his head for two more years or whenever he decides to bless those in the know with another dose of bittersweet reality.

Also appears at New-Noise


PANIC! AT THE DISCO-A Fever You Can't Sweat Out + THE ACADEMY IS...-Almost Here

There's no way this is over anytime soon. Emo may already be a dirty word in alternative circles but it's only just begun to divert into the mainstream. For the people who watch CD:UK, My Chemical Romance are a new vogue, the edgiest rock sound since Limp Bizkit, and although Fred Durst is a joke now remember exactly how long nu-metal lasted. Try to forget how bad it got though and say hello to the new (nu?) kids on the block, two groups of pretty boys with guitar-powered pop songs, emo's great white hopes.

Both building huge buzz and collecting fans through the Internet, both signed to Fall Out Boy Pete Wentz's Decaydence label and both just finished a quickly sold out UK tour without an official release between them the grammatically difficult Panic! At The Disco and The Academy Is.. are bands that, if not already on your radar, are about to crash straight into your musical eye view.

The similarities between the groups' early good fortunes are outweighed by musical differences. Sure they both deal in dead catchy rock-lite that is stuffed with quirky hooks and heart-on-sleeve cleverness but where The Academy drive their tunes straight and hard with a classic rock punch, Panic! meld their skipping guitars with stuttering synth thuds, dance beats, lilting strings or classical piano.

It's Panic!'s mix that works best. A game of two halves, their debut is divided; by an 'Intermission' no less, between the computer-enhanced digital-dance of the first part and the dark orchestral restraint of the last. So where 'Time To Dance' comes fully loaded with its own call-and-response hooks and 'Nails For Breakfast...' is peppered with the kind of effects Cher made famous, 'Build God...' sounds like a warped years-old Disney soundtrack. The whole thing is tied together by the driest of humour and the wildest of imagination.

The Academy Is... aren't short a song or two designed with screaming crowds in mind either. 'Attention' is a simple but killer opener that went down well on tour and 'Down And Out' is a moment of genuine emotion that just about balances out the exaggerated breathlessness elsewhere but it's the gorgeously made 'Checkmarks' that comes closest to making a real impact.

There's no more cool points to be had from owning these, it's too late. Soon everyone will have them. But that doesn't stop them sounding really rather good.

However, despite this and all the other sycophantic press both bands have received their albums share one more similarity, a fuck-you tune dedicated to Mr. Magazine; those critical website writers and prying journalists, so they probably couldn't care less what moderaterock thinks anyway.

At least the zeitgeist has its martyrs now.


I've got the bruise...

...of the year.

LISTEN TO Deftones

Who somehow have been trying to write a new album without worrying about the fact that they've never put a foot wrong before.

The Internet thinks the album, supposed to emerge in the Spring, is going to be called 'Saturday Night Wrist' and the heaviest thing the band have ever released. As long as it has the same stunning meldodies, twisting riffs, simple but hugely effective guitars and the voice of god on it everything's going to be OK.

Cross your fingers.


STRETCH ARMSTRONG +With Honor. Furnace, Swindon. 13.01.06

There’s a big metal barrier at the front of the stage inside the Furnace. Seriously, bands have to stand on their amps to see over it. The front rows of the crowd can reach the top and hang from it but otherwise they spend every show peering through the bars.

Now, Stretch Arm Strong, 15 years into their career, have probably played weirder stages, but not many.

The fact that the band has been doing this so long means a few things. First off, they know how to perform. Theirs is a melodic hardcore punk mix played breakneck by a band famed for being able to turn any crowd their way. Other bands hate playing after them. Secondly, they have the pride and determination that arrives with coming to terms with what a bitch the music industry can be. Despite their powerful sound they’ve never tasted the same success that bands ripping them off have enjoyed.

Even with all that on their side, tonight there’s an air of resentment, not bitterness but weariness, in some of the steps they make. Sure, as they bound onstage the energy levels are, as always, ridiculously high and the band certainly throw themselves around but they soon seem disappointed at the crowd reaction. Frontman Chris McLane is heart and soul embodied, clapping hard, leaping around and climbing speaker stacks to reach his people but apart from a dedicated few down the front and some random mosh pit violence everybody is mid-pint, mid-conversation or simply staring into space. Now that’s gotta hurt.

Before all that With Honor play their taut, driving anthems like their lives depend on it, and they probably do. Cuts from their new Victory Records album ‘This Is Our Revenge’ are amazing and even when the sound system threatens to swallow everything, the songs are played with the sort of emphatic dedication that will see them last as long as the headliners.

In the end, those headliners have simply been going too long to let some of Swindon’s lack of participation knock them all the way down and they shift into an extra gear from nowhere. Ending with a brilliant ‘For The Record’ and a version of ‘Melt With You’ that’s so good even those propping up the bar start to pay attention, they finally annihilate the cobwebs and reveal why they have such a Lazarus-like staying power.

Both of these bands make life-affirming positive anthems, songs you wish you knew the words too. It’s just a shame more people don’t. There may have been a cage on stage but most blocks tonight were, eventually, removed.

Also appears at New-Noise

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