Now Hear This 2004

NOW HEAR THIS 2004 Can’t figure out what to listen to? Listen to us. Once again, PopMatters‘ music team presents a highly opinionated, undoubtedly superlative but ultimately revelatory examination of 18 artists that demand your attention. NOW.
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:: Best Band For Thrillin’ and Chillin’

Now that The Strokes have been exposed as bloated, minimally talented rich kids, and The Mooney Suzuki has become starry eyed and moved to Los Angeles, New York’s musical renaissance has been left in the capable hands of the wondrous Star Spangles. Spearheading the revival is no easy task however, thus the Spangles can count on the support of multidimensional Neon Thrills to assist in leading the charge. Unlike many of their contemporaries, Neon Thrills cannot be assigned a simple identifying tag. Culling all that is good from ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, the self proclaimed pioneers of “Maximum Pop” harness an original brand of musicality reserved for but a few established acts. Expertly crafted songs anchored by the dual vocal efforts of guitarist Joe Stamer and bassist Mark Rinzel create a unique aural hybrid, combining aspects of The Raspberries and Cheap Trick with Big Country and Weezer. The band’s ability to shift gears with rally car precision is uncanny: One moment they’re floating along on a breeze of wistful melodies, the next they’re kicking everyone in the ass as drummer Bernie Davis and keyboardist Jon Sabol join the fray. No band has more readily embodied levels of textural diversity and accessibility since the early incarnation of REM.

With a dearth of polished acts to choose from these days, a truly talented band is something of an anomaly. So just how good are these guys? Suffice it to say that come their debut release in July 2004, even the atheists among us will be thanking God for the arrival of Neon Thrills. As it is also the date of America’s Independence, it isn’t surprising that they are destined, with The Star Spangles, to further the pop revolution.

Still not convinced? Then check out a gig and take the Neon Thrills Challenge: The band guarantees a free drink to anyone who doesn’t go away with at least one hook or harmony lodged in his/her memory bank. But be prepared to buy your own beverages boys and girls, ’cause Neon Thrills ain’t bought a round yet.

— Adam Williams