Jade Tree - 2001 - 50 minutes

The names Jonah Matranga and Norm Arenas may mean nothing to you, but they were players in two of the best but largely undiscovered American bands of the late 90's. Matranga was the powerhouse singer in Far, a Californian group who teetered on the brink of the big time with their third major label album 'Water and Solutions', but decided soon after its release to call it a day. Arenas played guitar in Texas Is The Reason, a melody worshipping quartet whose 1996 album 'Do You Know Where You Are' is still talked about in revered tones in the US emo-rock underground. Both are now in New End Original, a band who should outlive their previous incarnations and hopefully have a lot more success in between.

For lovers of the likes of Foo Fighters, Fugazi etc, 'Thriller' is a must, offering up lots of energy charges and about turns over its 50- minute running time. In his post-Far years, Matranga travelled the singer-songwriter route and he's brought these sentiments to Arenas' ability to move from three-chord champion to technical player across each song.

It begins with the 'now is the time' uplift of 'Lukewarm' - Matranga beautifully explaining that he "never wants to say his best days are behind him" - before charging headlong into '14 to 41' another singalong classic about growing, but not giving, up. And just when you think you've got them down to a pattern, Matranga & Co prove they're impossible to second guess with 'Leper Song' a piano lament that wouldn't be out of place on a Tori Amos album, and 'The Name' playing heavy on acoustics and atmosphere in its stock take of the past.

The kids' money may be all taken up with the Linkin Parks and Limp Bizkits of this world but the ones willing to think for themselves should really find this album. Those a few years older have absolutely no excuse.

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: Lukewarm - 14 to 41 - Hostage - Leper Song - Titanic - Better Than Ever - Weary Progress - #1 Defender - Halo - The Name - Better Than This