Can hardcore punk still be wild and free? On their debut record, the Bay Area's NEON breaks through the doldrums of modern life and modern punk to answer emphatically, ecstatically: YES OH YES. Ten perfect punk songs with unhinged guitar parts and caustic vocals decrying the dreariness of a world in grey. Silkscreened and hand-glued OBIs and gorgeous risographed four-color insert make this something beautiful to hold onto in these ugly times. This is liberation punk in full color. Limited to 400. Ugly girl music / NEON is life.
Our take: I was a huge fan of Neon’s demo tape, so I was looking forward to their debut vinyl. Thankfully it does not disappoint! Along with Mozart (with whom Neon share members), Neon is at the forefront of a new brand of hardcore that takes tropes that are big parts of the genre for certain fans—heaviness, tightness, and precision—and chucks them right out the window. There have always been hardcore bands that sound loose, raw, and wild (Italian bands like Negazione and Cheetah Chrome Motherfuckers spring to mind), but Neon’s take on the genre feels like an important political move. In a technology-obsessed world that demands humans act more like computers (a subject Neon addresses on the track “Bodies”), Neon’s music feels human, organic and alive rather than mechanical and regimented. Wrapped up with those tropes is also a long history of misogyny in hardcore, and Neon’s self-described “ugly girl music” does more than just reject that misogyny, it sees through it and finds the possibility for free and radical self-expression in a genre that can seem calcified. Moreover, the music just rips. The LP is full of catchy bass lines, inventive guitar playing, furious drumming, thought-provoking lyrics, and vocals as memorable as they are unconventional. Challenging politics, brilliant and exciting music, stunning packaging… what more could you want from a punk record?