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  The Neon Judgement  
  Play It Again Sam  
Release Date:
Reviewed by:
  Indoor Miner  

It's easy to look back at the early 80s and think it was all about New Romantics and the rather splendid "new pop" of the likes of ABC, The Associates, and Scritti Politti. This would lead to you to think that life back then was a wonderfully sunny place where lots of happy people went about their day, smiling away in their lovely bright silly clothes. This, however, would be to re-write history, as the early 80s certainly had their dark days with Joy Division still casting an ominous cloud over the music scene.

There are times when The Neon Judgement sound rather dark, too. I must confess that these Belgian contemporaries of Front 242 rather passed me by at the time, which is a shame as I would have loved to have heard the tracks on this compilation of material at the time rather than having to wait more than 25 years. The spectre of the early 80s certainly hangs over them – The Neon Judgement sound like they'd taken the first Suicide album and the early records by Cabaret Voltaire and the pre-girl singers Human League as a template. And if you dislike those artists and 80s electronic music in general, then my guess is that there's little chance of Box changing your mind. For those of you that do, however, there's much to enjoy here.

The opening track TV Treated for example is a cracker, where the early electronic sounds of, say, Are Friends Electric? collide with the energy of the first Killing Joke LP, and where the vocals become more and more deranged over an almost Glitterband beat. New Order were also starting to experiment with electronics around that time, of course, and fans of those early New Order 45s will surely enjoy Tomorrow In The Papers with its Blue Monday-like intro and Everything's Gone Green feel. New Order also spring to mind with The Fashion Party and its Confusion-like beats, but there's also something of a TVOD feel to it. It also features one of my favourite moments on the album, when a funky yet jagged almost Gang Of Four-like guitar suddenly pops up rather unexpectedly in the middle. Factory Walk is another highlight with a glam-like beat that has a touch of Nightclubbing about it, and is perhaps not unlike what T.Raumschmiere have been doing in more recent years.

I Wish I Could More, however, is a more guitar orientated track with an intro that wouldn't sound out of place on Wire's 2002 Read & Burn EPs. I'm less keen on the rather frenetic Concrete (It Feels So Strong) which I think is the one track here that sounds its age. However, Nion immediately gets us back on track. There's a definite Suicide influence here, being pitched somewhere between the comparatively radio friendly Rocket USA and the altogether more harrowing Frankie Teardrop. Elsewhere Too Cold To Breathe has a strong synth hookline over an almost galloping beat whilst Please Release Me Let Me Gogo has a Being Boiled feel to it. I Must Be On My Own is an entertaining number as it sounds like Ghost Rider meeting the Mission Impossible theme, and comes complete with a Boredom-type two note guitar solo tucked away in the middle before it comes on like some electro Eddie Cochran. Braindance, meanwhile, is the sound of The Crackdown-era Cabaret Voltaire with added Killing Joke guitars.

Disc one also includes a later track, S.T.L.G. , from 1988 (all other tracks were recorded between 1981-84) and has several live numbers tagged along at the end of the first CD, which is perhaps a touch unnecessary. The bonus disc of remixes and previously unreleased stuff, however, is well worth a listen with the Hacker remix of Factor Walk, the Implant/Krafty remix of Tomorrow In The Papers and the Revolting Cocks play Fade To Grey-like Vive La Fete Remix of Too Cold To Breathe being amongst a number of highlights.

If, like me, you missed the boat at the time, it's not too late to board it now because if you like The Neon Judgement's contemporaries that I've mentioned here, then I'd say there's a pretty good chance you're going to enjoy this, too. I certainly have been…

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