Jonathan Fire*Eater, Fri, Reading Festival 0181-963 0940/0541-500 044

New York's Jonathan Fire*Eater - five pale, wafer-thin and well-educated good boys-turned-bad, are to headline a stage at Reading Festival. This, cunningly enough, is before most of the wider pop world knows who they are. And why? Because respect abounds already.

Their delinquent, clanging rock suggests heavy ingestion of punk blues, Nick Cave and Girls vs Boys style. Plus, Jonathan Fire*Eater look totally cool. At the private boarding school in Washington DC where they met, they were probably a clique that modelled itself on the Reservoir Dogs gang.

"Do we admit that we have an image?" growls vocalist Stuart Lupton. "You make it sound like it's a criminal offence or something. It's important that musicians or artists in general create and control the entire world that they live in."

The sense that Jonathan Fire*Eater reside in a dusk-to-dawn world inhabited by characters who wouldn't have been out of place in Eraserhead or Blue Velvet carries over from their mini- album, Tremble Under Boom Lights, to the next single, "When the Curtain Calls For You". The two records share a sparse, goth-tinged atmosphere, which is odd when Lupman describes the sound as "warm and homey".

The one thing that is certain is that attitude - lorryloads of it - has helped them come a long way in a short time. They've slogged through tours of Europe, the US and Japan since spring, never taking things for granted, never feeling they've played the same show twice. This is the sort of zealous spirit they will require on Friday, when they will be up against Suede, the Boo Radleys and hardcore New Yorkers Sick Of It All, all of whom are in headline spots at various points in the Reading Festival field. But the Doc Martens stage, where Jonathan Fire*Eater will tread the boards, is where the brightest newcomers flaunt their stuff, and this year the offerings are better than ever.

GIG HIGHLIGHT Blur, Prodigy and Chemical Brothers are just a few of the names which make the two-day V97 festival impossible to ignore. It takes place in Essex and Yorkshire, so take your pick. Today and tomorrow, Mylands Park, Chelmsford, and Temple Newsam, Leeds 0171-287 0932/0113-244 4600