Hell Is For Heroes : The Neon Handshake

Dig in, chaps: the promised land of flickering lighters may be closer than you think.

Tired of worthy morgue-age rockers telling you it's time to sober up and get serious about world trade? Had enough of creaking Brit-pop millionaires droning on about the cosmos, man?

Relax: Hell Is For Heroes are here. Two things you need to know:

They take their name from a brilliantly gripping sixties war movie starring Steve McQueen.

They harbour within their ranks two former members of indie under-fives Symposium.

They have learned their lessons well. For all the acknowledged debt to the DC Hardcore of Fugazi and Rites Of Spring, 'The Neon Handshake' (okay, crap title) glows with tension and tunefulness. The supra-punk surliness has matured into a rock vitriol to upset any corporate stomach. In short, they have earned their battered Converse.

Because this is an almighty racket. 'Night Vision' could be a righteous Manics back to their blazing 'Design For Life' best; 'Three Of Clubs' has a stuttering stop-start arrangement that would have any self-respecting erm, post emo-core club performing dance-floor headstands. At times, when they take their foot off the pedals like in the first two minutes of 'Disconnector' they could even be Radiohead before they decided they were too clever to write tunes anymore.

Things do go wrong. 'Out Of Sight' serves no earthly purpose, whilst current single 'You Drove Me To It' clunks along over-familiar MTV-metal guidelines. Largely, though, 'The Neon Handshake' operates like an expensive dentist. It manages warmth and slickness without ever losing its capacity to inflict pain. Will McGonagale's guitar draws blood regularly whilst Justin Schlosberg's repeated pleas for togetherness and unity add, well, a heroic touch.

They save the best til last. 'Retreat' flickers into life over a paranoid rumble of bass ('Has the devil got my number?') and leaves us deep in stadium rock territory. The cryptic, quasi-religious lyrics ('I never thought I'd reach the end/I'm ready to surrender') even bring to mind-whisper it- the early, pre-ironic Bono.

Dig in, chaps: the promised land of flickering lighters may be closer than you think.

Paul Moody
7 / 10

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