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Like their name, Neon Trees are a combination of slick pop hooks and sturdy organic rock, both melodic and hard-hitting, their anthems of adolescent angst, longing, love lost and found, delivered with the kind of heart-on-the-sleeve passion that only comes from hard work and commitment.
Their Mercury Records debut, Habits, produced by friend, singer/guitarist Tim Pagnotta, is a refreshing blast of timeless rock energy and spirit that wouldn’t sound out of place at any point from ‘60s garage-rock to 2010 dance rock, with the first single, “Animal,” taking off from a round of weaving, angular guitars into a song equally at home in the arena as on the dance floor, a paean to sexual longing in which singer/front man Tyler Glenn wails, “Take a bite of my heart tonight.,” and you have no reason to doubt his sincerity.
Take hook-happy new wave, add to it the classic-rock story-telling humanity and leaven with other-worldly charisma, and you begin to understand the palette Neon Trees are working from.
“I have this weird, obsessive nature of wanting to be a superhero,” admits Glenn, who cites his two favorite performers as the Boss and the King of Pop. “I just want to help my friends and the people I love by saving them, only to realize they’re really saving me by listening to the music. The songs are all about forgiveness, love and passion, which basically sums up the whole vibe of what we’re about as a band, professionally and spiritually.”
In the opening “Sins of my Youth,” Tyler reminisces about a childhood of trial, error and eventual self-discovery. “I’ve got these habits I cannot break… Call me crazy/I was born to make a mess.” “Your Surrender” takes Roy Orbison’s romantic plaint and sets it up against Phil Spector’s Wall of Sound, while “Girls and Boys in School” speaks for itself, with a playground chant over a dark yet sing-along synth-pop chorus. Chris Allen has a quirky, edgy Johnny Marrr-meets-The Edge guitar playing while drummer Elaine Bradley drums with the intensity of John Bonham adding a heartbeat to the sensuality of the songs.
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