“Oh oh, I want some more / Oh oh, what are you waiting for / Take a bite of my heart tonight.” ‘Animal’, the song that saw Neon Trees shoot to the top of radio – and Glee – playlists in 2010, has been such a high benchmark for the Utah-based band that some fans were disappointed by their second offering, Picture Show, in 2012. However, with Pop Psychology, Neon Trees have attempted to regain their foothold in the alt/indie rock market.
Lead single ‘Sleeping With a Friend’ is along the same lines as all the previous Neon Trees singles: fun. Whilst perhaps not as catchy or entertaining as ‘Animal’ or Picture Show’s ‘Everybody Talks’ (who can forget that great 6 second intro?), it has its own charm, and the great guitar undertones tie in well with the summer release market.
I’ll say it now: the album is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s most certainly not as “poppy” as the most distinctive pop artists, but on the indie spectrum, Neon Trees are partying for the masses.
‘I Love You But I Hate Your Friends’ and ‘Teenager In Love’ catch the spirit of the arm-waving, festival going youngster that will love this album. The lyrics are blatant and unabashed, and the chorus goes for catchiness without being standout distinctive. Some of the other more mellow songs are also worth flagging up.
‘Voices in the Halls’ is a song to make the average listener stop and think. Tyler Glenn, the band’s front man, has a great voice, and in this track he takes front and centre. The clap-happiness is instead replaced by atmospheric electronica. We hear again the same themes of love and lust, but this time the bittersweet lyrics are allowed to shine through the music.
Like The Killers, a band Neon Trees used to open for, listening to Pop Psychology after their previous albums suggests a band constantly wanting to grow and to try new things. Some bands have achieved this better than others: Vampire Weekend has made this into a success three albums down the line, whilst at the other end Foster the People’s sophomore record has polarised opinion.
Unfortunately for Neon Trees, the album is just a good one, and not a great one. We’ll dance all night to it this summer, then forget about it when the leaves begin to turn brown.
This is by no means a damning conclusion, however. Too much radical change can always alienate listeners from a band, though, of course, this can lead to the emergence of new ears. With their third record, Neon Trees have decided not to take this risk.
Love and sex are the thematic lynchpins of the album, and possibly a saving grace when placed against the overall positive and joyful sounds the band has created for the record as a whole. There is a great depth to this album. First impressions can be deceiving, and I’d encourage you to look past the vibrant cover artwork.
Pop Psychology is by no means a deep and introspective journey into pop, nor psychology, nor even the two put together. But it is a pop record put together by a very conscientious band, and not a label. I’d put my hands in the air for that.