I love a good polarizing artist or director known for a very specific brand.
I’m thinking along the lines of a Quentin Tarantino. One knows what to expect out of him from project to project, and is either universally adored or dismissed.
The same can be said of a director like Tim Burton, whose films are characterized by dark themes, imagery, and cinematography. Therein lies also a certain air of mystery about his work.
So too could be said of the puzzling former Tooth & Nail band Neon Horse, described by one YouTube commenter as the “Tim Burton” of music.
Like the recent Shone experiment/disaster showed, music fans go batty when every strand of information is not made readily available unto them.
While I think the whole Shone venture was a nifty experiment that started out intriguing and different because of viral marketing, only to collapse under itself in a most frightening way due to an underwhelming product, there is something to be said for making audiences wait in this digital age. Delayed gratification in the case of Brian Lane’s band proved to be something of a catastrophic failure.
But given the correct circumstances (in this case, a much smaller audience), refusing to reveal the nitty-gritty details of a band, like its members for instance, could be the one simple selling point that entices a potential listener.
Such is the case for Neon Horse. After being intentionally sketchy regarding its members, the band released their self-titled debut album in 2007.
Back then, I was a co-host and producer of a faith-based radio show. Trying to stay in the “Christian music” genre fill out 2 hours of music across a variety of sub-genres without repeating songs every week was sometimes a chore.
That’s why I was so thankful for Neon Horse. Their blends of straight up rock ‘n’ roll and glam and punk rock and drunken horn revelry made it easy for me to play them just about every other week.
But aside from their musicality, the one element of the band that cannot be overlooked or understated is the vocals.
Much later into the band’s existence, when they started doing live shows, it was revealed that Mark Salomon, formerly of the old school Christian rock band Stavesacre, was the lead vocalist. Backing him was Jason Martin of Starflyer 59 fame. And filling out the official group was Steve Dail of Project 86.
Salomon’s singing is like some other worldly beast. The best way I know how to describe it is if Tim Curry himself came out of retirement to do some punk-influenced glam rock. It really must be heard to be appreciated: boisterous to the point of being over-the-top and dramatic, it makes Repo! look tame in comparison (just kidding, Repo! is some next level shit, sorry).
Their second album, Haunted Horse: Songs of Love, Defiance, & Delusion, is a total ‘80s-influenced riot. 10 rock songs fill out at just barely over a half hour, and
Lyrically, it’s as strange of a blast as the films of Tim Burton or Rocky Horror. Each of the songs has a correlating bible verse, but the Christian narrative is buried under tons of syncopated lines and metaphors.
Without spoiling any of the real goodies on Haunted Horse, here’s my favorite verse, from “Yer Busy Little Beehive”:
What’s that rattlin’ around, rattlin’ around/
In your busy little beehive?/
Dancin’ with the devil on the lips of the abyss/
Never sweeter till you’re steppin’ off the edge/
Good night, sleep tight.
Neon Horse is a bizarre and beautiful hidden treasure worthy of your ears.
From Haunted Horse, this is the video for “Strange Town” –
Standout tracks: “Yer Busy Little Beehive” and “Haven’t Sinned in Years!”
Weakest track: “Comin’ Up Theventh”
RIYL: Rocky Horror. For fans of Starflyer 59, The Joy Electric, White Collar Sideshow, Gorillaz, Shone, even Queens of the Stone Age.