James Jam
February 22, 2007 AT 05:00 AM EST

One hot dog. Four rum and Cokes. Aching legs. No fun. That’s how I spent the first hour-and-a-half of Long Island emo-types Brand New‘s set this week; a performance that was beige, blunt, and boring. Much of this had to do with the band running through songs from their first album, Your Favourite Weapon, and their second one, Deja Entendu, in their limp, insipid entirety. Odd, given that their new record sounds like a band literally killing themselves for a cause. Not only that, but thus far, it’s my favourite album of the year. I can’t imagine how this will possibly change; my iTunes is glad to inform me I’ve played it 176 times. Yes, I can’t believe it either: that few.

The Devil and God Are Raging Inside Me, released in November, saw a band taking bold progressive steps forward — a record more indebted to the indie-rock touchstones of Dinosaur Jr, Pixies, and even Radiohead than traditional emo sounds. A big fat ”boo,” then, that in concert it took so long before they acknowledged that. Perhaps it’s the band’s unflinching, uncompromisingly anal awkwardness (this is a band that won’t do photo shoots, and barely does interviews, after all), but playing all that boring stuff seems akin to self-flagellation. Especially given that a mere second after launching into the brilliant ”Sowing Season (Yeah),” they played 20 straight minutes of the most thrilling, unique, beautiful, challenging rock and roll I’ve ever heard. I’m a little bit in love with the new, reborn Brand New, and I just wanted to share that with y’all.

I’m also getting damn giddy about new New York punks, The Stalkers, and their furious brand of lairy, drunk, rhythm and booze. They’re a band we’re going to be championing through the paper, and every time someone puts their brilliant EP on the office stereo I want to go to the pub, and/or pour beer over my head and beat up a moose or something. Pure, unkempt rock and roll…alright!

Across the NME office, an addiction has taken hold. The journos have fallen prone to the fever sweeping the nation. And judging by the Internet, it’s sweeping every nation with a web connection, or with even just a couple of tin cans joined with a taut string. Given the nigh-on-religious fervour Arcade Fire have been generating here, it was appropriate that they played churches in London when they came over, and have titled their new opus Neon Bible, after John Kennedy Toole’s novel.

The intrepid Tim Jonze (he earned the epithet ”intrepid,” as every journalist should, after Pete Doherty attempted to throw out of a moving car) interviewed Arcade Fire for NME. It was an interview so incisive that we’re putting them on next week’s cover of the magazine. Not only that, we’re going to have a world exclusive listening post starting Feb. 26. Truly a band for which the word ”celestial” was invented.

America had Monterey in ’67 and Woodstock in ’69 but seemed to fall out of love with festivals for years. In Britain we’ve loved them since the early ’70s. In fact we love ’em so much that even the largest of them (and there’s over 20 on this tiny Isle) sell out in under a day. Mind you it’s an addiction America seems to be catching — I hear Coachella festival sold out in 24 hours.

You know what, though? I hate festivals. Four days, off your head; eating things you’d never eat unless you were off your head, talking to people you’d never talk to unless you were off your head, and — being a key member of the World’s Greatest Rock Weekly — filing reviews, news and interviews, off your head. Often in a ditch. No, really, I hate festivals.

It’s lucky then, that the other folks at NME pretty much, without question, absolutely love the damn things. It’s with this in mind, then, that last week, Paul Stokes, NME‘s News Editor, came running excitedly into the office flapping around a sheet that the newshound had put together listing details of who’s playing what, when, and where. That means the Killers, Arctic Monkeys, and the Who are playing at Glastonbury. (Widely regarded as the world’s greatest music festival, ‘Glasto’ has been running since 1971, has featured anyone who’s anyone, and returns to its site of Worthy Farm, Somerset, after a year’s absence.). It also means that Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, and scene stalwarts Iron Maiden at metal fest Download; Snow Patrol, Muse, and the Rolling Stones at the Isle Of Wight festival; Radiohead and Arcade Fire at Oxegen in Ireland; and the Red Hot Chili Peppers and the Smashing Pumpkins at Reading and Leeds. (It’s a dual-site operation, largely due the sponsorship of a lager company, which makes for the messiest festival to be found the length and breath of the U.K.) Much rejoicing was had in the NME office. Me? You’ll find me in the broom cupboard, shaking — quaking — with fear…

Till next time: have a bath you stinking hippies.

You May Like