Latest releases reviewed

PATTI SMITH Horses  Sony/BMG  ****

Subtitled "the 30th anniversary legacy edition", and the key word is legacy. Like a Velvet Underground record, not a huge amount of people bought the album on its release, but those that did were profoundly influenced by it (just ask REM, or Morrissey). This is a vertiginous combo of beat poetry and garage rock, and it's as potent now as it was then. From Gloria to Elegie, Smith spits it out in an almost regal manner. It can be all summed up by a rather perplexing and downright ignorant review of the time, which read something like "Before Horses I wouldn't have bought an album with a chick as the lead singer". Nice one, mister - try saying that to her face. The second disc here is taken from a complete performance of the album at this year's Meltdown Festival. The band on the night featured Television's Tom Verlaine and Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers. And don't miss the encore of The Who's My Generation. Brian Boyd

THE DARKNESS One Way Ticket to Hell . . . and Back Must Destroy  **

After selling three and a half million copies of Permission to Land, it sounds like Lowestoft's finest hair metal heroes have crashed to earth with a bang. During the making of this "difficult" second album, they lost mustachioed bassist Frankie Poullain and, if the title track is to be believed, snorted all their royalties up their noses. The song opens with Peruvian pan pipes blowing in the snow, then turns into a cautionary tale about shredded septums. The album's title is meant to suggest a band clawing their way back from the brink of rock'n'roll self-destruction, but The Darkness must have forgotten to use the return half of their one-way ticket. After a cracking opener, the album quickly descends into into a queasy Queen pastiche, a night at the opera that ends in screaming, mincing self-doubt. Knockers finds Justin unable to rise to the jailbait, while Bald sees him suffering from alopecia angst. Is it Just Me? and Dinner Lady Arms are saddled with uninspired guitar riffs, and Hazel Eyes is so close to Spinal Tap's Stonehenge, you expect to see dwarves dancing around the maypole. The pastoral glam-rock of English Country Garden really scrapes the Mud and shows that, beneath their platform-boots, The Darkness have tiger feet of clay. www.thedarknessrock.com Kevin Courtney

TEST ICICLES For Screening Purposes Only Domino  **

Cominatcha via New York, Texas, Australia, Edinburgh and London, the Testies are three very shouty blokes who play balls-out electro-punk noise mayhem and don't give a rat's gonad about melody, song structure or other such wussy pop concerns. They've already annoyed audiences at Arctic Monkeys gigs with their cacophonous blend of sonically challenging influences, taking in everything from RATM, The Beasties, Stooges, Anthrax and A.R.E. Weapons. Don't be put off by the crap name - the music is off-putting enough, neatly separating the men from the bedwetters through sheer teethgrinding sonic force. If the chainsaw guitars and brain-chewing electronics aren't tough enough for you, then the rasping, sandpaper-swallowing vocals will kick you into submission and leave you gasping for a nice gentle Bloc Party tune. There's little let-up on the continuous aural assault of Your Biggest Mistake, Circle Square Triangle, Boa vs Python and What's Your Damage? It's not all bollocks: somewhere underneath this blizzard of grating sounds is a decent band waiting to be heard. Not this time, though. www.test-icicles.com Kevin Courtney

CLAP YOUR HANDS SAY YEAH Clap Your Hands Say Yeah ADA ****

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah had already shipped some 25,000-plus copies of their self-released debut album from their Brooklyn kitchen tables before distributors and labels stepped in to take up the reins. Such a homespun retail rush comes down to the word-of-mouth buzz about the band's live show and their infectious weirdbeard pop tunes tailor-made to captivate audiences eager for something - anything - new. Yet, as with so much of the Class of 2005/06, what's new in this case is somewhat secondhand, with its yelping case of the Talking Heads, Television repeats and an intense, fizzing sense of the big music to the fore. But first impressions only count so much, and Is This Love?, the shriek-pop of Let the Cool Goddess Rust Away, and especially the driving, memorable The Skin of My Yellow Country Teeth step forward to slay all comers. The rounds of applause in the coming months should be deafening. www.clapyourhandssayyeah.com Jim Carroll

LIMP BIZKIT Greatest Hitz Geffen **

It all went horribly wrong for Limp Bizkit, didn't it? At the start of the Noughties there was hardly a bigger band - over 30 million albums sold worldwide, garnering 140 Platinum Award Certifications in 40-plus countries is the kind of success most rock acts dream of. And yet you can probably lay the demise of the band, in terms of credibility, at least, at the feet of singer Fred Durst, who seemed to take the fame game a bit too seriously. Music-wise, the band were nothing to write home about - a big, bruising blend of sludge rock, OTT punk and white-boy hip-hop (rapcore, anyone?) that enabled them to play enormodomes all over the world. God knows who this collection is directed at; surely their fans have by now grown up into responsible people? For those that care, three new songs are included. Oh, no - does this mean they're back? Tony Clayton-Lea