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  The Neon Judgement  
Release Date:
Reviewed by:
  Indoor Miner  

If you weren't around at the time and you believe all you see on TV, then it would be easy to come to the conclusion that the early 1980s were a time when everyone wore eyeliner and perched silly hats at jaunty angles whilst sitting on yachts with bikini clad models, singing about dancing across the sand.

Those of us old enough to remember that period, however, will tell you that there was a flipside to this frothy image-dominated pop, a dark underbelly that was often evident in early 80s electronic music. One such act from that time, Belgium's The Neon Judgement, have returned, and although there's an added contemporary muscle to their sound, there's a sinister feel to Smack (complete with blood splattered cover) that reflects those times. That's not to suggest, however, that TNJ are living on former glories, because with Smack they really have delivered the goods. I might have been a bit slow off the mark putting pen to paper about it, but I can assure you this was one of my most listened to albums of 2009. And it gets better every listen...

Smack opens with the title track, and whilst the pounding electronic beats with Glitter-like chants work well, it's probably my least favourite track on the album. Things move into a different gear on The Great Consumer with its repeated mantras and thumping glam beats, whilst I Cut Loose has an almost nightmarish Tubeway Army riff, with the sense of unease being heightened by a horribly distorted voice asking "What are you waiting for?" Two of the albums best tracks then follow: The Speed Of Sound, a mid-paced stomp that would sound great on the dancefloor and Leash, a track I had heard in advance of this album release courtesy of a rather bloodthirsty video and which is surely a TNJ classic in the making.

Indeed, TNJ are really on a roll here. Hey You opens with a punky New Rose-type guitar riff and provides a place where Pink Flag-era Wire and early Cabaret Voltaire meet head on. Another punk era band briefly come to mind on the throbbing We Are Confused when the pulsating beats briefly give way to some John McKay-era Banshees slashing guitar. Little Red Shoes opens with what sounds like that signature noise that Cameo used to open their records with, but rather than tell single men to clap their hands like Larry Blackmon and gang would have done back in the mid-80s, things get all discordant over an almost Killing Joke-like beat. It gets even better with Shiny Happiness, however. A gorgeous shimmering intro leads us into a rousing, predominantly instrumental track although there is the occasional spot of deep-down-there vocals from singer Dirk Da Davo as beats thud and clatter away relentlessly. There's also some delicious Colin Newman-like guitar lines on it. It's a fabulous track.

We finish where we started with the title track, albeit in extended form, but for some reason it works better as a closing track than an opening one, bringing to mind as it does, the wonderful Beers, Steers & Queers-era Revolting Cocks at times. And when you consider that this is my least favourite track here, this says a lot about just how great the rest of this album is.

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Watch Leash here:    PlayList&p=4979225A9C4079F2&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=66


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