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iDLEWiLD - Hope is Important (Food Records)

Punk, tinged with pop to sell it to the masses, looks set to be the Britpop of 1999. So, it's no surprise that Ash, its leading exponents, chose Idlewild and Chicks to support them on their recent UK tour. Both look set to be massive in '99.

Idlewild take bubble-gum punk, throw in some Pet Lamb (circa Sweaty Handshake), Green Day and Mansun, and emerge with what seems to be a successful formula. Short loud songs with lyrics that, though repetitive, are both catchy and meaningful. The fact that they obviously own the entire Pixies and Sonic Youth back catalogues is no harm either.

'When I argue I see shapes' is teen angst with a chorus that is to music what crack is to narcotics: highly addictive. The repetition becomes irritating, though, when you realise it's often used to escape from the musical dead-end they've driven themselves into. There's no excuse for such paucity of imagination. 'Everybody Says you're so fragile' could have been written by Stiff Little Fingers when they meant something while 'Safe and Sound' is another album highlight.

Yes, this is puerile and it is largely 35 minutes of sugary punk with hints of darker undertones, but it succeeds and that's what matters. The songs, and particularly the choruses, invade your mind and you find yourself humming them as you walk along the street.

The most interesting thing about Idlewild is where they'll go from here. As long as they don't choose the Green Day 'dye your hair and make faces' road they should be okay.

by Neil Callanan