Shipwreck AD are brilliant. Well, at least they are while ‘Abyss’ is playing and pumping out your speakers and moving you to mosh your bedroom to bits. Things change as soon as the disc stops spinning though...

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ELECTRIC SIX- I Shall Exterminate Everything Around Me That Restricts Me From Being The Master

From that bitter title you might assume Electric Six were fired up here, that they were back for their fourth album with murder and chart-conquering malice in mind. But you'd be wrong...

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SERJ TANKIAN- Elect The Dead

How much you’ll dig ‘Elect The Dead’ pretty much depends on what you think of System Of A Down. Yeah yeah this is a Serj Tankian solo effort but the dude has spent the last ten years as the mouthpiece of SOAD and has incorporated plenty of the meaty riffs, quirky vocals and original oddness from his day job here. If you were expecting European techno or Bay Area thrash, you will be sorely disappointed. If you’re after rock, roll and some smart ideas though, Tankian has got you covered....

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A not-so-pretty little ditty about wanting more, more, more in which Paul Hawkins sounds both pissed and pissed-off and the band behind him dredge punk riffs and grunge rock into shapes just ugly enough to match the sour words. This isn’t anywhere near as cute or catchy as Hawkins’ last single but it is ten times more infectious and deadly. If indie music is plagued with soulless rats then Paul Hawkins is the new pied piper. Except this guy doesn’t escort the vermin away but eat them up and spit them out. Acerbic aceness.

KIDS IN GLASS HOUSES + Tonight Is Goodbye + SaidMike. Zodiac, Oxford. 24.10.07

Tonight Oxford is all about the future. Even from a distance the Zodiac’s line-up is glowing with good prospects, get closer and there’s a fluorescent pink flood of promise and potential washing down the street, and once inside the building it’s impossible to move for the glare of a band who are going to be absolutely huge.

First on and Welsh wonders SaidMike may not have progressed a whole lot since supporting The Blackout over the summer but continue to impress nonetheless. In frontman Tom they’ve got a singer who can actually sing, in their nifty keys and synth tricks they’ve got everything they need to keep things interesting and in tunes like ‘Mind Over Muscle’ and ‘Heads Down…’ they’ve got songs that could take them supernova. If they would just lift their heads a little, and maybe consider a name change, this lot could take over the world.

Planet-beating is something that Tonight Is Goodbye have promised for a while now. They may already have some slick moves and stylish poses down pat but this evening they expand their pop-rock arsenal brilliantly- boosted confidence, a bigger sound and brilliant-sounding new tunes helping them make the leap from local charmers to headline contenders with ease. They finish with a riotous version of ‘Black Dress’, girls scream, boys sing, everybody dances like a loon and the future, as they say, is most definitely bright.

Kids In Glass Houses sound close enough to that particular light to explode any day now. Truthfully the band are still a toilet-tour proposition and without a full-length to their name but, from the first twinkling notes of their set to the final ballsy bounce of ‘Me Me Me’, the Cardiff quintet handle the pressure of such a stellar supporting cast with ease. Frontman Aled is a super-self-assured dynamo and the band behind him sound like Funeral For A Friend with their passion fully restored, like Angels And Airwaves boiled to down to atmospheric pop perfection and, much like the other bands on tonight’s bill, are clearly ready for rock’n’roll superstardom.

Tonight Oxford was all about the future. And in these days of retro rock, vintage riffs and much British music looking desperately to past glories, it’s been a very reassuring evening indeed.


TORCHE- In Return

People will feel this record before they hear it. The booming bass will shake the ground, the titanic riffs will channel up arms and legs and the hypnotic distortion will filter through brains from a thousand yards. But beardy Floridians Torche haven’t just created a mega-loud monster here though, ‘In Return’ is out for your dancing shoes too...

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Another runner from the ever-impressive Holy Roar stable, Anglo-American skinny kids Cutting Pink With Knives kick out the sort of demented sixty-second jams that most folks dismiss as dreadful noise. But this isn’t yet more dull grind and is a million miles from metal’s current brutal death obsession. This is like a cartoon soundtrack being fed through a backfiring amp. It’s what Spandau Ballet would have sounded like with extra garbled yelps and doom synths. It’s less The Locust and more Genghis Tron throwing a chart-pop party. And if you’re still not getting it then the fact that ‘Populuxxe’ is listed as ‘children’s music’ on iTunes explains a lot. Mad. But highly recommended.

THE PLIGHT- Black Summer

Oh yes, now this thing rocks. Not in the way that Lynrd Skynrd or The Eagles actually rocked, or in the way every awful DJ would say Bon Jovi do, but in the sort of fashion that leaves you bloody, bruised and breathless but with a huge smile on your face.

The Plight are doing nothing wholly original- If you want fresh sounds and punk progress then there is nothing for you here- but from the off ‘Black Summer’ is a balls-out, huffing-and-puffing wonder. ‘Clarendon’ clatters in on some rollercoaster drums before exploding into some greasy dirt-rock riffs, ‘Ball And Chain’ is a howling, foul-mouthed anthem against the daily grind and ‘Lifestyle’ stomps the lines between Thin Lizzy, Motorhead and Every Time I Die into dust.

If the formula sounds familiar it’s probably because The Plight do things with much the same blistering intensity as their former tourmates in Gallows. Only one track here strays over the three-minute mark, none of them come within a million musical miles of a clean chorus and each and every one retains a fire and passion that hasn’t been present in hardcore for what seems like forever.

‘Black Summer’ even looks the real deal too- Dan Mumford’s amazing, eye-catching artwork making it feel like the output of a wealthy, seasoned act, not a Leeds rock’n’roll band with just two EPs under their collective belt. It’s the perfect topping to a disc that rocks like it can’t think of any other way to be and sounds like an absolute blast from start to finish.



Paramore put in the perfect preparation for this. The Texan band’s 06 debut was a super sugar-rush of pop and rock and girly-voiced melodies. There wasn’t a lot else to it but for cheap, easy, musical thrills, ‘All We Know is Falling’ was just right. All they had to do here was find an extra edge and (frontgal Hayley Williams aside obviously) perhaps a pair of balls and they'd definitely be on to a winner. Disappointingly they haven’t done that, you could even put ‘Riot!’ on right after its predecessor and not notice the difference, but of course they haven’t entirely lost the plot either. The lack of anything new means opener ‘For A Pessimist…’ flies by without making a mark and ‘Hallelujah’ is nothing but the wettest of fish. In other places though (‘Misery Business’, ‘Born For This’) they still get sweet, solid gold pop just right. ‘Riot!’ then is pop music pic’n’mix- pink, fluffy and fully appetising from a distance but too much, for too long, and your teeth will rot right out of your head and your brain will only get bored. More substance next time.



For almost a decade Darkest Hour have been playing punk-powered hardcore metal; thrashing about when it wasn’t cool, then while it was, and still doing it now, as everybody else searches for the next big thing. But the Washington DC quintet have seldom received the recognition they deserve for such hard work. And, while ‘Deliver Us’, the band’s fourth album, is a monster, it highlights exactly why they’ve failed to boost beyond the circle pits of their ardent admirers and into the metallic stratosphere.

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COPELAND- Eat, Sleep, Repeat

It would be easy to assume what a new Copeland record would sound like. Most folks already have the Florida band firmly slotted into the emo genre and the energetic pop rocks they’ve previously produced will only make that easier. But ‘Eat, Sleep, Repeat’, rounded out by fragile, breathy melodies, diverse flourishes and solid, sincere songwriting, actually sounds more like a straight-up indie thing than any fashion-conscious troupe struggling with a difficult third album. The subtle gear change means this record has massive potential outside the usual ‘scene’ channels too, offering fans of Coldplay, Radiohead and poetic lyricism just as much as it offers those of Brand New and Mae. ‘Eat, Sleep, Repeat’ isn’t going to take the world by storm, but, listening to the gentle, sleepy sorrow of ‘I'm A Sucker For A Kind Word’ it barely sounds like it wants to. It is too well-articulated, too well-rounded and just too good to ever be tagged as mere emo though. And, regardless of whether you’ve never heard Copeland, or have been a fan of their previously louder output for years, this is arguably their best work to date.

STRAYLIGHT RUN- The Needles The Space

Ahh, now this is great. And that’s true whichever side of the Taking Back Sunday divide you fell. If your heart went with John Nolan and Shaun Cooper when they left the New York quintet in a flurry of harsh words over four years ago, ‘The Needles The Space’ is exactly what you’ve been waiting for since. And if you always stuck with team TBS then you just don’t need to worry anymore. Straylight Run aren’t going to come out rocking, they aren’t even aiming for that rack in the CD store anymore, they’re never going to test your loyalties again.

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BOSSK + Manatees. The Roundabout, High Wycombe. 09.06.07

Fuck the ambience, fuck the emotion, tonight is about music you can feel in your gut. In fact, when Kent quintet Bossk truly find their groove, you can feel it in your limbs, lungs, heart, eyes and crawling all over your brain. There’s barely a part of the body that their Mastodon meets Isis post-metal doesn’t bruise. But it’s not like this show doesn’t have emotion or atmosphere covered either. While Carlisle trio Manatees have a similar disregard for eardrums (Paul hits his drums like falling bricks and Alex’s bass rumbles so violently it breaks mid-set), they excel at moments of hypnotic calm and swirling, smoky drama too. And, as ‘iii’ builds from tribal percussion to a roaring metallic burn, it fixes to put you in the sort of bug-eyed trance that wouldn’t break for weeks. Luckily the headliners are on hand to snap you back to life. Because, while the Bossk boys clearly enjoy a few quiet, mind-bending moments of their own, it is the weight, power and goddamn monolithic presence of their music that truly impresses. Every level on the soundboard is scraping the red but the band are trap tight and make every twist and crunching turn look easy. By the time a bespectacled frontman sidles through the crowd to scream the end of ‘ii’ the speakers are working so hard you can feel the hot air at the back of the room and glasses are vibrating on the bar. High Wycombe hasn’t heard anything as loud since World War Two. And that’s booming praise indeed.


HEAD AUTOMATICA-Mean Fiddler, London. 28.05.07

Tonight has been a long time coming. This band have booked their tickets across the pond on three occasions now and every single time the anticipation here has been palpable but every single time Daryl Palumbo’s Crohn’s Disease has got the better of the man and his band. But finally tonight, London gets its beating heart (baby) kick-started by Head Automatica. And man does this thing begin like the greatest party ever.

The explosive riot-pop of ‘I Shot William H. Macy’, the hump and bump of ‘Laughing At You’ and the massive sing-a-long for ‘Solid Gold Telephone’ form an opening rally that could suck the sweat from this crowd’s pores were they not giving it up so freely. ‘Cannibal Girl’, ‘Lying Through Your Teeth’ and a storming ‘Graduation Day’ are given a particularly rabid reception but really every track is greeted like a long lost friend. It is however not all neon and glitter inside the Mean Fiddler.

Live, Head Automatica are a proper band; they spit and stomp and really put their instruments through it. And what comes out isn’t just candy-coated electronic tunes but genuinely bulging riffs and dirty beats. An amped-up version of ‘Please Please Please’ confirms that the boys onstage truly know how to rock, the blood-on-the-dancefloor shake-and scream of ‘Oxycotton’ wades with punk rock abandon through soul croons and hypnotic sludge and the people here for ‘Beating Heart Baby’ alone have already jammed their fingers in their ears by the time Daryl screeches through ‘K Horse’ like a demon.

No one really knows if the frontman is particularly on form, the capital hasn’t caught him onstage for years and years, but the stick thin singer is certainly ridiculously confident, a wildly animated, consummate showman and vocally deadly. And, while his giddy eyes and high-pitched giggles do suggest it’s something more than adrenaline powering him along, he is without a doubt the burning bright star of the show. If he does get better than this then the Glassjaw reunion tour can’t come soon enough.

With a closing cut of ‘The Razor’ Head Automatic are gone but London’s faith in them, England’s love for them is back. With a mighty vengeance.


SAOSIN. Fez Club, Reading. 24.05.07

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Saosin extravaganza,” shouts Cove Reber. And it’s just one more sign that the straggly-haired, skinny singer is a changed man. Last time Saosin hit the UK, Reber was sick, sad, and cripplingly shy. He couldn’t look his audience in the face and he couldn’t hit the high notes without hitting the hospital too. But not anymore. For every second of the hour-long show tonight, Reber is in fantastic form. In fact this whole band have grown; from slick pretty-boys into stubbly men who talk about drinking cobra blood and rocking the fuck out. And the fact that they’re rocking out here, in Reading, to barely 300 people, only a day after playing their biggest ever gig (and downing the snake stuff) in Jakarta, shows just how mature these men are. You can hear it in the songs too. ‘Voices’ roars louder than any music video, ‘You’re Not Alone’ no longer feels like a token ballad but begs to be played to the back walls of arenas and there isn’t one song, no matter how sharp and stirring ‘Seven Years’ is, that dominates the set alone anymore. What holds sway now is Reber; who doesn’t just look people in the eye but hands them the microphone and shakes and shimmies and screams in their faces, the band breaking sweat tenfold beside him, and the thrilling and emotional set that they’ve dan-near perfected.

Tonight- Reading. This time next year- the world. The extravaganza just got extra-special.


VANNA- Curses

Big breakdowns? Check. Shredding screams? Check. Awesome hair all-round? Quintuple check. You don’t even need me right now, you could review this with your eyes, and your ears closed, because there are thousands of stock words and phrases to throw at fourth-generation metalcore bands like Vanna. Except these five Boston dudes don’t care what you think, what i think, or what anybody thinks; they’re here to rock the fuck out.

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CLUTCH- From Beale Street To Oblivion

Clutch are like ready-salted crisps. From the outside they look plain, maybe even a little boring and maybe you’re just sick of seeing their name all the time. But get a taste of them, however brief, and you’ll instantly remember how fucking good they can be. And ‘From Beale Street To Oblivion’ might just smack your head clean off.

Continuing their progression from bearded backwoods punkers to shit-kicking, rock’n’roll blues brothers (still bearded) this album finds the hell-raising spirit of Lynyrd Skynyrd and Led Zeppelin and doesn’t stop pulling. Opener ‘You Can’t Stop Progress’ feels like the driving campfire boogie these boys have been working towards for the past 15 years, ‘Power Player’ could be ‘Immigrant Song’ reinvented for the noughties and on ‘Electric Worry’ Neil Fallon sounds more like a leering, crazy preacher than ever. Fans of Clutch’s very first experiments in fuzzy noise might find ‘From Beale Street To Oblivion’ a little too simple, virtually none of the band’s hardcore roots remain, but for everybody else there’s a party going on.

Some moments here, the Hendrixian jam-sound of ‘Black Umbrella’ for one, do simply drift by rather than stroll up your driveway and kick your door in. But Clutch have damn-near perfected their modern-day blues-metal here and such is the overriding rock groove, the powerful sense of fun and the sheer volume of bolshy swagger present that every single note on ‘From Beale Street To Oblivion’ could be one of those salty reminders of Clutch’s persistent quality. Superior stuff.

KRUGER- Redemption Through Looseness

Swiss quartet, Kruger, have well and truly cut out the middle man here. By describing ‘Redemption Through Looseness’ as a mix between Breach, Neurosis and Tool they’ve perfectly condensed their third album, nailed their sound and made all the world’s music hacks redundant. Ok maybe they could have added Mastodon or Isis or screamo progenitors like Converge and Coalesce to the list but really, they’ve sewn this up.

‘Ammunition Matters’ is a dark and hypnotic bastard of an opener, ‘The Graveyard Party’ growls and snarls like some foam-mouthed caged animal and ‘The Cowboy Song’ is a potent brew of raw adrenaline, slurred distopian screams and intense post-everything ambience that draws more obscure comparisons to December Wolves, Daughters and Ed Gein.

So while it certainly isn’t pretty stuff (any hooks here are great ugly, rusted things rather than something sharp, shiny or precise), the concentrated and almost constant barrage does begin to warp into an addictive kind of chaos. This is the sort of noise that should could from the darkest corners of the deepest woods in the very best frightening fairytales of your imagination.

Perhaps arriving too late in the game, Kruger might never attain the cult celebrity or scene-starting respect of their acknowledged influences but they do make a damn fine rock and roll racket. And they definitely make a reviewer’s job easier. Ace.

DOPAMINE- Experiments With Truth

This won’t make Dopamine millionaires. But it should, oh how it should. The refined quality of ‘Experiments With Truth’, only the Caerphilly band’s second album proper, should mean they take straight to the big leagues. The simple and gorgeous songs here should appeal to fans of Foo Fighters, Jimmy Eat World, and the band’s fellow countrymen in Lost Prophets while the variety on offer should oust any mention of emo. The grand scale and slow-burning superiority of stuff like ‘The Ghosts In The Machine’ should make it impossible for Dopamine to return to mere local band status but the fact that the boys in the band have put their money where their music is and self-released ‘Experiments…’ should endear them to even the staunchest of scenesters. These songs should be all over your radio, this album should be huge, and all this should make Dopamine millionaires. It won’t, there’s too little money and too much smart class here, but it is simply, magically, blissfully brilliant stuff nonetheless.


BOLT ACTION FIVE. Oakford Social, Reading. 04.03.07

Soon you will know the name. Because if London youngsters Bolt Action Five keep playing shows like this everyone will be talking about them. There’s nothing amazing about the set up- guitars, drums, bass and synths and four skinny guys in skinny jeans. But when the band click into the ‘go’ position everything changes. Yeah they make a racket like Hadouken or The Klaxons or any other band keeping the corpse of Test Icicles warm do but there are blast beats here and half-second thrash riffs and songs so catchy people are whistling them outside in Reading’s shitty rain and they don’t even know why. Blessed with a frontman who dances and prances about the place like some bastard clone of Noel Fielding, Bolt Action Five play songs that shoot from the stage like lazers. Even when the power cuts out. Bolt Action Five are the band booked for the house party in heaven. Bolt Action Five do electronic power-pop without a hint of insecurity or trend-hopping (their blood surely runs in day-glo) and they should be massive. Go, spread the word. And soon everyone will know their name.


BLOC PARTY-A Weekend In The City

It’s a brave move for Bloc Party, releasing an album like this after such a short, sharp, success of a debut. Because ‘A Weekend In The City’ is an altogether darker, deeper, denser and just plain much more difficult affair. Ok, first single ‘The Prayer’ has a block rockin’ beat, pop hooks stolen straight out the Gwen Stefani handbook and some fantastic call-and-response vocals that will make the next tour dates a joy. But then there’s ‘Uniform’ which takes an age to get to its fantastic, metallic beating heart and ‘I Still Remember’ which never fully blooms, content to sigh and heave with understated beauty. And the risks don’t always equal reward either. The skittery, slimy ‘On’ wants to be U2 in a dark bedroom but amounts to airy nothingness and numbers like ‘Song For Clay’ and ‘Sunday’ struggle to come to any sort of peak at all. And that’s all before you add in Kele Okereke’s often empty, clunky lyrics.

This is a brave move for Bloc Party but, while the band are certainly still capable of magic (‘Waiting For The 7.18’ is blessed with a europhic final flourish and ‘Hunting For Witches’ does every single thing right), it’s one that all too rarely captures the edgy excitement of that sensational debut.

KLAXONS- Myths of the Near Future

New Rave is tosh. It just doesn’t mean anything. Especially when the band apparently spearheading the movement dismiss it as a big fat joke and sound like this. ‘Myths Of The Near Future’ is no rave revival; this is a pop record through and through. Ok so first big single ‘Atlantis To Interzone’ bumps and thumps with dance club power and the boys in the band dress like they’ve just tripped out of some 90s disco but there are far cleverer things than any disposable genre name here.

‘Forgotten Works’ is hypnotic lounge music, ‘Golden Skans’ is so full of hooks it will rest right in the front of your head for ages, the schizophrenic angry buzz of ‘Four Horsemen…’ will soothe the pain for anyone still mourning Test Icicles and ‘Magick’ pumps those pop sensibilities through psychedelic noodling with great effect. On top of that though, there are loads of vivid lyrical images of beautiful, odd and arty things like sequin-covered swans, mirrored statues and dying heroes to really trip you out.

This is a debut that tweaks the shouty, day-glo menace of the Klaxon’s first musical forays into a truly impressive form, pulling multi-layered, shape-shifting, dark and sultry songs from the colourful mess. It’s an album that constantly promises something special just around the corner and most of the time it pays off in style. It’s not new rave but it is really, really good.


THE SHINS- Wincing The Night Away

Blame Zach Braff for this. When he slipped thirty seconds of The Shins’ ‘New Slang’ onto the soundtrack of his film Garden State, he exposed the band to a level of attention they had previously only dreamed of. And, while some of the folks who dug those dreamy thirty seconds might not even realise the same band have a new record out, way more of them will have been ready and waiting for ‘Wincing The Night Away’ for the last two years. And chances are, it won’t disappoint.

For a good start, this is a record brimming with all the solid songwriting, odd charm and catchy quirks that have typified The Shins’ music to date. ‘Sleeping Lessons’ bubbles into view, echoing like something Disney dragged up from the sea, before getting its head down, ‘Pam Berry’ is a sawing fuzzy, interlude and ‘Sea Legs’ clicks and whispers like a cut up copy of The Postal Service. Despite all these peculiarities though, this is no kooky indie crazy train, not at all. Underneath (and in fact, and as a first for The Shins, mostly on top of) those old appealing eccentricities lie sure-footed and sober songs. ‘Phantom Limb’ twinkles like its been sprinkled with Brian Wilson dust, ‘A Comet Appears’ is a lovely American lullaby rather than a psychedelic daydream and ‘Australia’ is the sort of thing Keane might able to come up with if they cared about happy pills rather than musical mediocrity, cash and cocaine.

Really though The Shins, with all their pop experiments and smart rock abandon, remain a band in their own genre. ‘Wincing…’ is that fizzy, bubbly background music to your favourite dreams or that perfect kiss in that perfect film, it’s all-at-once innocent and clever and dark and cheery, and it’s bound to ensnare thousands more listeners too, with Braff on board or not.

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