Linkin Park, London Arena<br></br>Haven, Wolverhampton University

Nice tunes, pretty faces, but there's one thing missing ...
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The Independent Culture

The indecently speedy ascent of Linkin Park earlier this year was swiftly followed by a persistent scare story which began in the metal press and spread like wildfire: "Are they manufactured?" In the keep-it-real world of metal, this is just about the most heinous allegation you could possibly make, and it has been vigorously denied (all they will admit is that the nascent band, then called Hybrid Theory, had their tape passed onto vocalist Chester Bennington by a record industry contact).

Of course, it's the wrong question. We don't need to ask "Are Linkin Park manufactured?", but rather could they have been? The only possible answer is, yes. Linkin Park's "High Voltage", a B-side which they play tonight, ends with the words "You can't put a label on a lifestyle". Oh, but you can. Nu-Metal (or Sports Metal, as it is more accurately named, in recognition of the steroid-skulled jocks who have now colonised alternative music) is a world of strict rituals and codified clichés.

Linkin Park obey every rule to the letter, and nothing is left to chance. Tattoos: check. Turntables: check. Twin vocalists (Bennington a semi-literate Eminem, sidekick Mike Shinoda a sub-James Hetfield bellower): check. Constructivist statues bearing heroic banners: check. Graffiti-stencilled logo, complete with backwards Ns, suggestive of an unspecified revolutionary agenda: check. All-purpose angst ("It's like a whirlwind inside of my head"): check.

Linkin Park's fanbase has expanded exponentially, and there are now so many of them that they can only be housed in a huge shed. "Looking out at all you beautiful people," smarms Shinoda, "our closest 12,500 friends in London are here tonight." Midway through "Papercut", they have to stop because two kids have passed out in the crush. Chester, unexpectedly mutating into Charly from the Seventies public service ads, runs through the safety drill. "When someone falls, what do you do?" ("Pick them up!").

How must it feel to make your living expressing your inner pain to pogoing nine- year-olds? Can Bennington and Shinoda sleep at night? If their self-loathing was faked on Hybrid Theory, by album two, it may be a little more real.

Rap-rock has hit the skids since the days of Rage Against the Machine and Red Hot Chili Peppers. The likes of Lin-kin Park, Crazytown and Papa Roach are so generic that you couldn't slip a Rizla between them. They've all got the licks and tricks, but none have the malevolent intelligence of, say, Faith No More. Watching Linkin Park – the sound of the Beastie Boys, the slickness of the Backstreet Boys – it's easy to see how the "manufactured" rumour began.

Haven are four passably attractive young men with Steve Marriott haircuts and plain black shirts. Tonight they're playing to a half-empty provincial pub, but there's no reason why they shouldn't be standing on the shoulders of Starsailor and flicking Coldplay's ears. The sound is 1966 through the filter of 1996, the Byrds via the Verve. The harmonies between the singer Gary Briggs and bassist Iwan Gronow are impeccable, the songs anthemic enough for the arena circuit.

The main selling point, at this early stage, is that they're produced by Johnny Marr, and you can imagine what attracted him. Always the unpretentious half of the Smiths' songwriting duo, who left to get away from Morrissey's unremitting Morrissey-ness, Marr can doubtless see simple, eternal virtues in Haven: nice tunes, no bullshit. Me, though, I like bullshit. I might go so far as to argue that bullshit, in the specific sense that Haven lack it, is the very essence of rock'n'roll. I demand bullshit. Give me bullshit!

s.price@independent.co.uk

Haven: Chinnerys, Southend (01702 460440), tonight; Army & Navy, Chelmsford (01245 354155), tomorrow; Boat Race, Cambridge (01223 508533), Tue; Roadmenders, Northampton (01604 604222), Wed; Princess Charlotte, Leicester (0116 255 3956) Fri, and touring

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