I have a completely-filled 120 GB iPod classic, the record crate of the digital age, containing my entire music library. I’m listening to each release in alphabetical order by record title – kind of a virtual archaeological dig. These are my findings.
…Unless I decide to skip around the alphabet. In fact, I believe I’ll focus exclusively on netlabel releases for all of April…
Because I’m an authority on all things shoegaze (among other things, if you hadn’t noticed), I’ve been asked in the past to suggest bands and albums to those who need a fuzz-guitar fix. Case in point, a friend, Tony, sent me this Facebook message right before Christmas this past year:
You had mentioned that there are some great shoegazebands still running around. Any suggestions?
Suggestions? Did I ever! I scrolled through my playlist and came up with a good thirty artists for him to check out. They ranged from the obvious (Ride, Th’ Faith Healers) to the not-so-obvious (Glifted, SIANspheric). Reaction:
hOLY sHEEEEET, Man… Thanks!
Was that what I was going for? I’d be lying if I said no.
So a couple weeks later I was trolling the netlabel scene, and lo and behold I stumbled across a new release on Brazilian label Sinewave’s page, The Neon Album by Neon Night Riders. Listed as a shoegaze record on a primarily post-rock label, I was immediately intrigued, and the high-speed train tunnel album artwork was enough to suck me in to checking it out. Here’s a little something about Sinewave: because it’s based in Brazil, the page is in Portugese, so I didn’t really have a good sense of what the band was all about. They used to provide an English translation of their promo material, but they’ve stopped doing that (even though there’s a poll on the page as to whether they should bring back that feature). And I stubbornly didn’t select the Google “Translate” option, like a dummy, perhaps – although why spoil my own untainted reaction to the record with broken English? I’d rather go in a bit blind, and I did with Neon Night Riders, not sure what to expect.
I came out the other side of that tunnel windblown and breathless – this album was good. Good enough that I didn’t care about the songs averaging between 4 and 5 minutes in length. I didn’t think the band needed to trim any fat. And I thought of Tony – as well as another friend named Tony who’s into the same stuff as the first Tony (heck, let’s call them Tony 1 and Tony 2 to avoid confusion, although they can fight over who’s who) – so I Facebook’d my new find to him … er, them. Tony 2 (or 1, but 2 for the purposes of this column – please don’t stop reading) responded, probably for the both of them:
dude…wow. love it…..thanks!
Again, that’s what I was going for. Good stuff, guys.
The Neon Album sounds immediately like a lost classic from the late 1980s, dreamt in a Berlin nightclub or a Manchester basement, reeking of the head-down, vapor-trailing noise-poppers like Ride and Swervedriver, especially on the appropriately titled album opener “See the Sky.” Drums thrash and guitars veer and dive – vocals are (probably thankfully) relegated to the background. (It’s fairly impossible to make out much of the lyrical content throughout, but I’m definitely wary of my rock-n-roll being populated by lyrics written by a dude for whom English is not his first language. And the whole album’s in English.) I think the best descriptor for how the record opens is simply “Zoom.” And visions of similar hyperspace getaways inevitably ramp up the anticipation.
But in a not-unpleasant turn of events, Neon Night Riders hew closely to the “Neon” part of their name for a majority of the rest of the album, trading in the interstellar chug for ecstacy-fueled synthetic pop on the more downtempo “Disguise.” In fact, the strongest part of the album is the midpoint trifecta of “Hostile,” “Blank Screen,” and “Escape,” each establishing its own lysergic niche within the core. These nightlife tunes would fit perfectly into a jump-cut video of a neon-ad-smeared New York or London pastiche. In fact, comparisons to Depeche Mode or New Order would be perfectly apt, with bright keyboards, deeply echoed bass, and immaculately processed guitars all recorded cleanly and economically – meaning there isn’t a lot of bleed or feedback. (Wait, I’m pretty sure this is a shoegaze album…)
But rock Neon Night Riders still do, and do well, especially on “New York Is Calling,” “Ghost of Mine,” and “Machines and Pilots.” Even on the synth-pop tunes, the drums (or drum machine, it’s hard to tell sometimes) charge hard, so there’s not a dull moment to be found. It’s funny how a band from Maceió, one of the furthest points East on Brazil’s coast, can sound so much like a European darkwave act. Now only if they drove the Knight Industries Two Thousand – that would make them even cooler.
Weirdly, the artist link for this band redirects to a different band, s.o.m.a., so I can’t point you anywhere directly for the download. But here’s Sinewave’s catalog page, and The Neon Album isn’t far down under the 2010 releases. Even if your name isn’t Tony, you should check it out.
RIYL: Ride, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Depeche Mode, late-period Starflyer 59