We broke up on January 29th 2016.
A bead of sweat trickles down his cheek. It’s not warm in here, yet still his body feels compelled to fight the heat. He’s not a rock star, he’s never even been to Birmingham.
The other two aren’t much better, unified by social ineptitude and coffee breath. These three people aren’t ones to aspire to. The word aspirational appears sarcastic when written down on paper and held up next to their faces.
So why do I love them so? What is it about Neon Highwire, these three seemingly unremarkable men, that fills me with pure excitement whenever their name is mentioned? Is it because musically their each song is so crammed with ideas they threaten to implode in on themselves? Is it because they hit you with one infectious ear-worm after another with the kind of chart-bothering potential most acts can only dream of? These songs can move the hips of the dead. Is it because the stark imagery of their lyrics paint no pretty pictures of who they are, instead writing with such stark honesty as to make listening almost uncomfortable?
“Whenever you come don’t cry too loud, breathe a sigh, why do you look away when that’s all between us?”
The answer is yes. Very yes.
They live in London, though none were born there. Self-taught producers whose blue collar backgrounds were never going to make things easy for them. Perfectionist control freaks, their debut album took four years to complete with recording, production & mixing done by the band with only the mastering trusted to Simon Davey at The Exchange. Unified by their lack of life direction elsewhere, they make music because it’s what they do, what they’ve always done, arguably all they do well. Their live reputation for raucous and borderline dangerous shows has seen them perform alongside acts such as Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs and Dragonette. Their debut album Relate (2013) is essential listening. Not a misplaced note from start to finish.
It saddens my heart to think that there are still people out there who haven’t heard Neon Highwire. They’re like a drug. They’re better than drugs. Twinkling melodies, vivid lyricism & inventive songwriting layered in a manner that rewards repeated listening. It’s raw excitement. F**k what you think you know. Know Neon Highwire.
Surrealist geek electro upstarts Neon Highwire are the party destroying sensation that have been named as ones to watch with good reason. They’ve been championed by Tom Robinson of BBC 6Music, had track named track of the year by Sherwood Radio before it was even released and have gained a reputation for their devastating live shows countrywide which have included performances with Pete & The Pirates, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs & Dragonette to name a few.
The band’s 2009 début EP Luminescence (mastered at The Exchange), described by Rock Sound magazine as “cutting their angular-chops in all the right places, and it shows” was a shining culmination of these various elements. It includes the single Neon Blink, subsequently released on Blue Dove Records with a number of high profile remix b-sides and also featured in a Finnish TV show created by Jere Vainikka. It also features the sensationally catchy Under Moonlight, featured in the film “Maya’s Voice” and a favourite of Tom Robinson (BBC) and James Theaker (NME) with good reason.
2010 saw the digital single release of the spectacular Bear At The Bus Stop with its incredible accompanying promotional video which on the day of its release caused their channel to become the 45th most viewed musician on Youtube. This was followed in 2011 with the anthemic Spin Off & the cult sensation Kim Jong Il Looking At Things.
In 2013 the band release their incredible debut album Relate, a cataclysmic journey documenting the breakdown of relationships, the discovery of self and the hurt that goes with the process. Featuring 13 incredible tracks including the cool intensity of “Just Suppose”, the dance-floor magnet “Initialise” & the sublime “These Movies Have Become One Big Joke”. It’s no wonder there’s so much excitement for this release.
Whether it’s the insightful witticisms of their interviews and blog updates, the detail within the multiple layers integral to their sound or the infectious beats that bring to mind the meat of Sonic Youth’s accessible phase being fed through a Bugged Out filter, it’s no wonder Neon Highwire count artists such as French Horn Rebellion or Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs amongst their fans. In their own twisted words, it’s an electravaganza.
Sanguine music and doleful lyrics aren’t natural bed fellows but when band member Steven Morgan’s decade long relationship ended during the writing album, the entire project took a nefarious turn. From the uncomfortable opening lyrics of Initialise to the discomforting stark honesty of Common Ground, the entire album resembles a voyeuristic journey into a man’s self-discovery. It’s a crisis of identity, morals and assumptions offering no justifications or bravado, just a window into the ugly truth.
Musically, Relate is a successful amalgamation of the textures and physicality of dance music riddled with gleaming, brain-leeching hooks and the bombast of dirty guitars. Though it’s a sonic tour-de-force that seldom remains static either structurally or in pace, a number of unified themes flow through the hyperactive squiggles giving the whole thing a cohesion which refuses to become predictable. It highlights three men at the top of their game, with each song so packed with ideas it rewards the listener from the first notes to the twentieth spin.
There’s nothing else out there that can touch this collection of songs. It stands both as an ambitious series of individual masterpieces and a collection that forms a compelling narrative from beginning to the end. If you had to choose between this album and a cheese sandwich, you would definitely choose this album. Even if it was really good cheese it really wouldn’t even be a difficult decision.
Under Moonlight has been played multiple times on Tom Robinson’s BBC 6 Music show and named by Sherwood Radio as their “”1 Unsigned Track of 2009” with this to say about it “Under Moonlight is as infectious and if not better produced than any of the signed music in my collection to date. If I had this on Vinyl it would be scratched to death by now! Awesome! 10/10 JUST BUY IT!”
93 Feet East named them one of their 93 Picks describing them as “Filed somewhere between a friendlier Death From Above 1979 and a nastier Hot Chip, Neon Highwire specialise in, in their own words “nihilistic deeply distorted-bass driven house”.”
Subba-Cultcha’s review of Luminescence said “…this is certainly one of the more accomplished efforts of the month – bouncy, engaging and interesting. Yummers”
Rock Sound reviewed Luminescence positively saying “Two years on the scene, London gents Neon Highwire have been cutting their angular-chops in all the right places, and it shows… Already playlisted by the BBC and with plans for a UK tour this year, it looks like the future’s not only bright for this trio, it’s neon.”
Musosguide named them a “tip for 2010”.
Daily Dischord’s review of Luminescence stated “Neon Highwire are a band worthy of your attention, so make sure you check this infectious EP out as soon as possible.”.
RebelRiffs review of Luminescence stated “With a great cross between electronica and chippy rock, Neon Highwire are a fine example of the health of English music. The problem lies in the health of the English music business whose blindness to the potential of bands like this will be remembered and noted, come the f****** revolution.”
No Fiction said “6 Music’s Tom Robinson faves Neon Highwire harness synth, steel and string into something rather marvellous indeed. If Metronomy had stayed a three piece and not gone all shite then perhaps the output would not be so far away from NHW.”
God Is In The TV wrote “Their sound is a melting pot of eclecticism tied together with a coherence which gives them their distinctive style. Part electronic dance machine, part balls-out rock, part pop darlings, there’s a maturity in the sound borne from a near-fanatical perfectionism…”.
Easy Music for Difficult Ears said “Rather than lay claim to overly simple rhythms a chord progression, Neon Highwire’s songs are laced with touches of elegance and intricate meanderings that makes them rather nice to listen – an impression is also left that these may also be killer dancefloor chooooooons.”
They’ve been featured in West Side Will’s showcase & Andy Quirk’s podcast “Hits Of The Near Future”.
Where The Wild Things Are described the live show as “…a crazy kind of electro-dance-funk noise going on that somehow kept reminding me of the Mighty Boosh. It is only enhanced by the leaping around and flailing of the band members and we have to give a special shout out to Steve-o’s boiler suit, Kanye West, flashing belt combo.”
London Tunes said “And now we’re blessed with Neon Highwire. Their tunes come at you at breakneck speed and leave you wondering if their self-description of “nihilistic deeply distorted bass driven house” is sufficiently intense.”
The Other Side Of The River say “most importantly of all: they’re really rather good.”
James Theaker, NME radio said of single Under Moonlight “The song structure is great and the length is just about right for a radio edit.”