And they're my favorite national band.
Our music is one of the very few things we Belgians can still be proud of. This band was among the pioneers exploring into alternative music and building up our nations famous innovative music reputation (no kidding!) abroad.
It's a band that knows how to combine a wall of guitars with wild synths in a very musical, poppy way.
And most of the time it sounds natural and so damn easy, so original and catchy and full of life.
It's really a shame they always remained in the darker corners of our nations music history.
It doesn't feel right and personally I think it's about time our king does something about this.
The Neon Judgement is Dirk DeDavo and TB Frank. The band operates from Leuven/Louvain, Belgium.
The band was introduced to my music life with the single 'Tomorrow in the papers'.
I memorized the lyrics (printed on the back cover) and could talk hours about it, about the Kennedy's and about Marilyn Monroe and all other things this song was about (according to me!).
Yes, impressing girls was not exactly an art I had fully mastered yet.
Some years later she cleared her collection and so I became the happy owner of this rare 12'' with 'Who do you love' on the b-side, a well known song written by the great Bo Diddley.
The band tackles this song without any guitars (!) and in my opinion they don't fail, however nothing much is left of Bo Diddley's thumping rhythm - it sounds completely different.
Naturally I was eager to buy the forthcoming EP 'Mbih!', which - by the way -
received good reviews.
Besides 'I wish I could' and 'Tomorrow in the papers',
I don't like any of the other songs. Well maybe I can like 'Let's get born' and
'Sister Sue'. These songs have at least a faster rhythm.
More or less at the same time the band released a compilation album with their first songs. This album which was
called 'The Neon Judgement 1981 - 1984' was more impressive, even if it was only a collection of songs
released on cassette or 7" or 12" during the previous years.
One of the songs that became a cult classic - and still is - in Belgium is 'TV Treated', the way those synths rock...
The music was different, the band was one of the first bands to explore into what we call today industrial electro dance music. Fact is the band had a great feeling for true 'Music', not just noise.
'Mafu Cage' got several top reviews but I guess it proved to be too strong for the 80s soda pop music public. I couldn't believe some of my more conservative friends didn't like it. I assume the bands dark image stood in the way. People were easily scared in the 80s.
'Mafu Cage' is without any doubt the bands hottest album.
And I think - even now - it's still the best album ever made in Belgium. This is music that's alive, alive and on the edge like a hungry lion.
It's amazing how the synths and the guitars and the drums get along so well. It rocks like hell.
My favorite song - and by the way my favorite TNJ song - is 'Awful day'.
It sounds so mean.
Other favorites are 'He's gonna drop', 'Dead friend's body'
and 'Be nice to me'. Songs with sweating and kicking synths.
The only song that I don't like that much was put on single.
Not as impressive as 'Mafu Cage', but close enough...
Friends informed me about the bands new single 'Miss Brown', a brilliant pop song featuring funky synths - you love it right away. It was the hottest song in town.
In a promotion interview the band stated they could write such commercial tinted pop songs any time, but they preferred to do things their way - things that were more fun.
With songs like 'STLG (See the little girl...)', 'Hot Sally',
'Trashy lady' and 'Sultan of sex' they were spot on for the fun I guess
as this albums main theme was SEX.
Still the bands somewhat a-commercial attitude and the dark greasy underground image prevented them
from breaking through.
The Neon Judgement was the first Belgian band to play in the White House while '1313', the first outtake of their new album 'Blood & thunder' ruled the billboard 100 for months. The band sold out gig after gig and president Bush sr., though not very confident with modern music, confessed he occasionally liked to dance on 'Games of love'.
The USA went nuts for the new heroes.
These were the things I wanted to read in the papers, but I didn't.
However, most songs - if not all - are good enough.
A song that impressed me over time is 'Le suicide du beau Serge' (referring to 'le grand Serge
Gainsbourg'), not quite for the subject but for the fascinating musical adventure it offers.
And there was room for the romantic side of the boys.
And on top of that...
I like '78 T/As and... the band featured a '78 T/A on the cover for this album. Far out!
It's wild - it's fascinating. I like this song.
It shows very well the bands ability to get music out of almost anything.
Still... it's pure pop music, but with fantastic balls.
There's even a surprise, being a friendly radio song. 'Alaska highway' could be a tribute
to this state without being bombastic. It's sober. It's gentle.
My favorite is 'Never change'.
Strange is the source of inspiration for some of the songs. 'I build a house' - title says
it all - sounds funky enough despite a somewhat boring title. 'Pink coat' is more like it, a tiger lady
in need for a pink coat, a dark color, black boots and a whip.
But it was very different. I didn't like it at all. There was no trace left of the floating wild electro dance beats. This album had more in common with pop à la Prince than with new wave. And I had no deep interest in Prince, nor his music.
I played the album very rarely, but one day...
I played it in my car and a girl from work seemed to like it very much. She borrowed the CD and I sort of became to like the girl... and she me and to everybody's surprise the CD got more airplay.
Funny how things go...
And it even turned out to be a very fine album.
Now, older and lazier I have to confess 'Home' is my true favorite on this album. It has a well succeeded dreaming melody that makes it one of the bands best songs. Yes, it's another master piece featuring some great humming made in Belgium.
But I can easily love'em all, 'Jackson, come home' was one of the first songs to get noticed. 'This strange effect' (a legendary Ray Davis song) and 'Julia' are simple gorgeous pop songs. 'Are you real', the title track was put on single - I always found it a bit too commercial for my taste. It wasn't a success.
The one thing that puts this album really down is the cover design. It screams from behind the shop window
'If you buy this, you're fucked'.
They're the dark spots on the bands career.
I bought both albums as they were released, played them every now and then but failed to find a stunning and impressive song. I tried.
'At Devil's Fork' is at best a cold trip back to the glory days of the band in the early 80s. Some songs ('Right now' and 'She lies in the sun') make up nice shadows of stronger and older material but most songs fade out into oblivion.
Three older TNJ-classics received a remix treatment and figure as the best bits at the end of the album.
The bands last album 'Daszoo' wasn't even a shadow of former glory.
The bands end in 1999 came as no big surprise. The boys decided to stop making music
under the Neon Judgement flag and they started other projects.
Nevertheless, the band made many impressive great and attractive songs.
'Chinese black' is just one more example illustrating the bands talent to write damn good pop songs.
I bought this album only recently because I already had most of the other songs sitting on other albums.
I will miss the boys.
My selection of TNJ-songs that rock all the bricks in the house :
the Pontiac Firebird Wing :
Pamela Sue -
Firebird Trips -
the Music Wing : Jesus & Mary Chain - John Mellencamp - Mylène Farmer - INXS - Neon Judgement
the Scale Model Wing : My Plastic - Dads Plastic - Guide - Plastic Gatherings - Links to Plastic
the Cool Clickings Wing