Oh dear, Neon's self-titled first album is that most difficult
thing for a reviewer to deal with - a record that's just OK. What
to say ? Much as I like this band's style of crunchy power pop,
the record's just not distinctive enough for me to praise it to
the skies. On the other hand, it's competent enough that I'm denied
the perverse pleasure of giving it a good critical kicking and
burying it in the nearest ditch.
Neon is a young Australian three-piece purveying guitar heavy
tunes that aspire to the sweetness and the crunch of Smithereens,
Posies or Cheap Trick. Now, Oz seems to have more
than its fair share of great bands, from the Easybeats through
Radio Birdman to the Triffids, Church,
Go-Betweens, Augie March and beyond - you'd think a
country built largely by exiled criminals would have a head start
on rock & roll, after all - but I guess there have to be some
exceptions to the rule (anyone remember Silverchair?)
The record has some appealing tunes, but they tend to be subsumed
by the trite lyrics and over-eagerness of the players (especially
singer Josh Bitmead, who sounds like he reeeeally
wants to be from West Coast USA instead of New South Wales). The
glossy production doesn't help, either, especially the suspicion
that Bitmead's voice is being pitch corrected (the vocals have
that same slightly metallic sound that is audible on pretty much
any top 10 tune these days).
As is our policy here at Hybrid, I gave this quite a few listens
before committing fingers to keyboard. Unfortunately, though,
even songs like "Dizziness", which apparently made Single
of the Week in the NME, sound to me like any number of tunes you
might hear coming out of the doorway of Urban Outfitters. I can't
understand why the major labels are signing this kind of thing
when there is so much more exciting, original and inventive music
out there - just read the reviews in these pages for evidence.
It's not that the Neon boys and girl don't have talent - the
playing is good and they can write a good tune or two. But they
really need to work on those lyrics, and develop a musical persona
that will set them apart from all the other power pop wannabes
of the moment.
1. A Man
3. Hit Me Again
4. Lapse in Conversation
5. Summer Rain
7. Happy Going Nowhere
8. People Inside
9. New Direction
10. All I want
11. Into Your Eyes
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