Pop music is a tricky thing. It’s hard to know when you throw that phrase around if it will bring up the music of Cheap Trick or Backstreet Boys, “Easy Lover” or “…Baby One More Time”. When I try to describe albums like Nada Surf’s Let Go or Brendan Benson’s Lapalco I end up resorting to, “It’s just really good. If people had taste, this would be ‘pop music’.” Melbourne, Australia’s Neon falls into the same category. Their V2-released EP Hit Me Again, is overflowing with chugging guitars, cymbals, tambourines, perfect harmonies and really fucking catchy songs. Playing their first proper showcase gig in New York at an early show at Mercury Lounge last night, Neon had the tricky task of re-creating the shiny pop splendor of their expertly produced EP. From the get go, there were some technical issues. Standing in the bar before the show started, I heard the beginning of fave track on the EP “A Man”, and went in to see them recover from a false start.
A word about “A Man”. It’s a perfect pop song. You know in Boston’s “More Than A Feeling,” when Brad Delp sings “I see my MaryAnne walking away,” and just when you think dude has gone as high as he really should, he kicks it up the extra note and you realize that it’s one of the coolest moments in the history of pop music? Neon has one of those moments for you in their first song of the night. Right after the bridge in “A Man”, all instruments drop out, the vocals start in on the refrain and when the guitar/drum/bass all hit in together again if you don’t experience a little pop orgasm, you did something wrong. Go buy it on iTunes and listen to it again. Yeah, there it is.
As a live band, Neon delivers these great pop moments over and over again. They’ve added an additional guitar player/singer to the lineup to help bring across the huge guitar sound and full harmonies on the EP, and new guy Andre and lead guitar/vocalist Josh Bitmead clicked together perfectly. Drummer Jamie Gurney is an animal behind the kit - pounding the shit out of his drums he broke more than one stick in the short set. Britt Spooner on bass had a majority of the technical issues. Track “Hit Me Again”, was played without bass, but the charm of the song shone through any equipment problems. Watching the band plow through the track (you can check out the vid for it at their Myspace profile) I realized that it is songs like this that make me ashamed for being afraid of pop music. If there is a band out there with the ability to convert the world to believing in the power of huge harmonies, catchy hooks and crunchy guitars, that band just might be Neon.