Imagine my delight in finding a copy of The Notwist's 2002 Neon Golden
in my most recent batch of Splendid goodies. I generally only have a week or so to form an opinion about an album before delivering it to the dedicated mass of Splendid readers, but with this tidy little gem, I've had a whole year of listening experiences with which I can shape and style a review. The difficulty lies in finding something that hasn't already been said about this towering accomplishment in the realm of electro-inflected post-rock epics.
Anyone within a few hundred feet of the buzz following the original release of Neon Golden last February didn't waste any time in dropping a few extra pennies to procure this gem as an import. But those of you who needed convincing and took a knock in the indie-cred department the first time 'round now have a chance to jump aboard the bandwagon.
Using studio trickery and production effects to deepen the impact of their already accomplished compositions, the band doesn't merely aspire to create pocket symphonies -- they succeed. And this is not to say that The Notwist are sucking at the same over-swollen teat of post-Kid A electro-rock that is presently feeding what seems to be a universe of soundalikes and tag-alongs. No, with Neon Golden, The Notwist prove they are at the vanguard of the sound and not simply trudging through the tropes of a tech-obsessed and clinical musical genre. Pick an element generally deemed a necessary component for a magnum opus and you'll find it here: glistening string arrangements, vibrant horn sections, sonic peaks and valleys by way of textured dynamics, and eerily personal and poetic lyrics. The Notwist can sculpt more emotional sounds and music into a compact and cutting four minutes than most can do in a career. Believe it. With "Pilot" and "One With the Freaks", The Notwist have nothing less than the best rock anthems of this year and last, while "Trashing Days" and "Consequence" hand the Bavarian four-piece the same crown in the ballad department. Imagine the finest moments of your favourite Mouse On Mars album, the sincerity of your essential Björk singles and the intelligence of a Stereolab performance in all its tricked-out glory. That is the current sound of The Notwist. That, and a stealthy banjo. The extra tracks added to this North American version of the album fit perfectly with the flow of Neon Golden's original ten -- in fact, the instrumental "Formiga" could very well be a better conclusion to the experience than the original one.
C'mon, everybody... the verdict is already in, and it has been for quite a while. Neon Golden deserves every accolade it received in the last year and it's only getting better with age. My job is merely to further its legend, and that's just too easy. For a band that shuffled through near obscurity for the better part of their twelve-year existence, Neon Golden is a brilliant declaration of The Notwist's new direction, and hopefully the shape of things to come.