Some habits die hard: Neon Trees disappoints fans

Image courtesy of audiomuffin.com.

By Morgan Marzella, Contributing Writer

Who says ‘80s synthpop is dead?  Just when we think the ‘90s grunge scene and hip hop has laid it to rest for good, a new band emerges that resurrects the music from its aerosol can hairspray and fishnet stocking infested grave.  Armed with guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and a tight pair of pleather pants, Neon Trees have successfully injected their new brand of pop music into the Top 40, beginning with their 2010 hit “Animal.”

Neon Trees’ first full-length album Habits blended 80s New Wave with a more modern indie rock sound.  The result of this combination was a radio-friendly danceable album that could be enjoyed by club bunnies and frat boys alike, as well as the rest of us who just like to listen to music.  Even though the was originally only eight songs in length and clocked in at under thirty minutes, it peaked at 113 on the Billboard 200 and reached number 1 on the publication’s Heatseekers Albums chart.

The band’s live show, however, puts this album to shame.  Tyler Glenn barely stays still and dances about the stage as if he’s channeling the souls of James Brown and Michael Jackson, occasionally stretching the limits of his pleather pants by kicking into the air.  Branden Campbell lays down the bass notes that help drive the songs, while Chris Allen strums away on his guitar, and Elaine Bradley pounds away on the drums, providing back up vocals when she can.  The sound that pumps out of the speakers is enough to make the entire audience move.

With the hype that the band has created for me with the great album and live show, imagine my excitement when the band announced that its new album Picture Show would be released on April 17 of this year.  Two years without new material from any of your favorite bands can drive you crazy.  You sit there and twiddle your thumbs while listening to your favorite songs over and over.  When a new album’s announced, you jump at the chance to pre-order it.

When I finally got the album, I decided to listen to it immediately, and was somewhat disappointed with what I heard.  The opening synthesizer and organ parts to the lead off track “Moving in the Dark” were enough to get my hopes up, especially when that song is followed by the rock-heavy tune “Teenage Sounds” (which sounds like an updated version of one of Billy Idol’s songs) and the lead single “Everybody Talks.”

“Everybody Talks” I feel is the only single-worthy song on the album.  It’s poppy enough to get anyone to dance, and is the only song on the album that feels like it stayed true to the style that Neon Trees had developed on Habits.

After I listened to “Everybody Talks,” it was all downhill.  “Weekend” sounded like a song that Michael Jackson would have performed in his “Beat It” era, and the song “Lessons In Love (All Day, All Night)” had already been released by Kaskade last October.  Nothing seemed to keep my attention, and I felt as if all the energy the band had was expelled within those first four tracks.  The rest of the album seemed to lag through songs that were five or six minutes in length.

The only thing that ran through my mind while finishing up my initial listen to the album was that I hope Neon Trees doesn’t go the way of The Killers.  It’s an interesting comparison, considering the two bands have been good friends since Neon Trees opened for The Killers on parts of their 2008 North American tour.  Hot Fuss is an amazing record, but the albums to follow only had a few choice cuts on them.  I feel that this is where Neon Trees is heading and the outlook doesn’t look so good, especially when they have to re-release a song they’ve already recorded with an electro house DJ.

Bottom Line: While Habits was a solid album, Neon Trees failed to recreate its vibe with their sophomore effort Picture Show.

Perhaps it is due to the loss of Tyler Glenn’s mohawk.  No mohawk, no mojo?  Picture Show gets a C.

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Author: Jennifer Kiebach

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