Friday, August 04, 2006
Download: The Black Neon—“Ralph and Barbara” MP3
Download: The Black Neon—“Hollywood 1, 2 & 3” MP3
Most often, an album serves as home to a bunch of otherwise wayward songs, segues, and other musical meanderings. The protocol for most albums involves inviting the listener inside for a quick tour and then presenting a unified sound and style. By “unified sound and style” I mean “collection of songs that pretty much sound the same.” Problems arise when the songs move in, hang out with one another, and begin to adopt the mannerisms and personalities of their friends until, ultimately, the home becomes nothing more than one homogenous sonic thought. Some have called it GBS or “Gin Blossom Syndrome,” and it’s an ailment that has afflicted many a band and songwriter. You see, The Gin Blossoms wrote a song in the early-mid-90’s and then turned that song into like three albums. Good for them. It allowed them to successfully fulfill their contract with A&M and make some money without having to really stretch or bend or push too hard.
The Black Neon is the Black Lodge to The GB’s White Lodge. The songs on their debut release, Arts and Crafts, shift from the sauntering electronic wizardry of geology filmstrip soundtracks to Beck-style funk jams that even the trashiest of the Eurotrash would be proud to shake their slender asses to. The album goes back to a less feverish pace but upon its return decides this time to incorporate the psych-pop brilliance of bands like Olivia Tremor Control and Super Furry Animals. The Black Neon smooth out the whole affair with a synthy sheen in the vein of Air and Beta Band but fail to reach a Michael McDonald level of smooth--that’s a good thing.
Arts and Crafts never comes off as over-produced or over-thought but it’s clear that The Black Neon are no Gin Blossoms. They’ve managed to craft a collection of songs that expands and contracts, and I’m guessing the album was no small feat. They make the stylistic transitions seem effortless so as to make Arts and Crafts a multifarious (but not disjointed) celebration of what good bands can do when they put the right amount of thought and effort into their records and push themselves to step outside the schema of what we’ve come to expect from an album. The best part is that they manage to do it all in under 36 minutes.