Friday, February 23, 2018

EP Review :: Neon Waltz - Bring Me To Light


Neon Waltz

Bring Me To Light

February 23 2018 (Ignition Records)


Words: Kieran O'Brien

It is fair to say that a single celebrity endorsement can often propel a band from relative obscurity to a status as indie music’s next saviours. This has certainly been true of six-piece Neon Waltz, who appeared on a Noel Gallagher curated Spotify playlist in 2015. While the band was certainly making waves prior to a nod from Gallagher, the playlist inclusion would certainly have raised expectations of the Scottish outfit amongst fans of Oasis’ songwriter in chief.

The band’s latest release, four-track EP ‘Bring Me To Light’, shows the band are more than capable of delivering anthemic and atmospheric songs likely to satisfy fans of Noel Gallagher and indie rock enthusiasts further afield. A quick scan through existing reviews of the band reveals a penchant for writers to make much of the sextet’s geographical location at the North East tip of Scotland. Hailing from John O’Groats, a place more synonymous with charity cycles than atmospheric guitar music, it has become something of a novelty to refer to Neon Waltz as ‘Britain’s northernmost band’ or to relate their sound to the rural mountainous landscape found in the upper reaches of Scotland.

To focus discussion of Neon Waltz primarily around their remote origins would however be unfair on the six piece; their debut LP ‘Strange Hymns’ exuded a natural ability for writing catchy pop and an ambitious sound capable of mass appeal far beyond their home town. On ‘Bring Me To Light’, the band again showcase a knack for crafting shimmering pop songs that will please fans and summer festival goers alike.

The title track will be one that existing Neon Waltz fans will already be familiar with as one of the stand out melodic moments on the band’s debut offering. The opener is effortlessly catchy, pounding along at a foot stomping rate with shimmering keys and then fuzzy guitars colouring Jordan Shearer’s dreamy vocal. It’s easy to see why ‘Bring Me To Light’ has been re-released; with more exposure and attention this could really be an anthem at the number of festivals Neon Waltz are playing this coming summer.

‘Watch it Fade’ which follows, is slower in pace but equally as infectious as the opener. The repeated lyric ‘you know how this goes round’ will please those looking for anthemic pop, and again Shearer’s vocal lines are eminently listenable and likeable. At this stage any obsessions with the band’s proximity to the northern tip of Scotland seem increasingly futile; on ‘Bring Me to Light’ the vocal delivery and punchy arrangement recall the Stone Roses’ melodious debut, whereas on ‘Watch it Fade’ the swirling organ riff is reminiscent of early 90s Manchester favourites Inspiral Carpets.

On ‘Schoolhouse’, the introspective lyrics delivered dreamily by Shearer wouldn’t sound out of place on a record by Liverpool’s Bill Ryder Jones. By this point it is clear that anybody obsessing over Neon Waltz’ geographical location should look to the North West of England for their influences rather than the Scottish mountains. Some may say that extensive comparisons with existing artists could be levelled as a criticism, as it means the band are not bringing anything new to the table. Whilst it is true that Neon Waltz’ sound is not particularly innovative or pioneering, the six piece are good at what they do. The band clearly have an ear for a catchy melody and are more than capable of turning out interesting arrangements. Indeed on ‘Schoolhouse’ the wonky ice cream van-esque keys riff making way for fuzzy guitars is a striking melodic turn and arguably the highlight of the EP.

Closer, ‘Enlightened By A Fall’, at 1 minute 22 is the shortest song on the EP by some distance, but there is still enough time for the band to demonstrate their pop capabilities with Shearer delivering a soaring and purposeful vocal accompanied by a single piano. As before it would be inaccurate to say that what the band are offering here is a new sound but again it is conveyed with purpose and imagination. Any fans of 90s British indie music looking for the next group to emulate their heroes should look no further than Neon Waltz.

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