Neon Trees had a big 2010. After getting plucked from the Provo music scene to tour with The Killers in 2008, they finally dropped their first studio album Habits (Amazon) with plenty of buzz and exposure. First single “Animal” went platinum, and after hearing it a zillion times I grew to quite like it and bought the album which spent weeks in our car on repeat. Second single “1983” has not done as well (speaking sales; it’s on San Francisco radio nonstop), but every song on Habits sounds like a hit and I imagine we’ll be hearing more from Neon Trees at busstops and clubs around the world for years to come.
In case you’re not hip to their jive, man, here’s what they sound like, both album and live:
Animal video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=gM7Hlg75Mlo
Animal live: www.youtube.com/watch?v=05sL30VqSIs
1983 video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=j51LRUjIdnE
1983 live: www.youtube.com/watch?v=7-B1HbUBZ6Q
I haven’t heard any rumors yet so maybe they don’t exist yet, but I can predict them for you right now. You can’t be a successful rocker with hair like that and not have Certain People saying nasty things about you and your relationship to the faith. But let’s help prevent such rumors now. Here’s a good place to start: quote this.
But mohawks aside, their songs’ subject matter is what might make those Certain People most skittish. Their songs are, dare I say, pretty typical pop fair about love and clubs and good times. They’re good enough lyrics I suppose, but making an argument that they’re “holy” will be rather tough. Yet we seem to have this idea—and by “we” I don’t mean Mormons but Americans in general and perhaps moderns in general—that song lyrics are inherently autobiographical. We’re enlightened enough to never accuse a novelist of living as he writes, but we’re perfectly happy to do it to songwriters. Silly, I know, but we all do it. Admit it. When a songster writes about Activity X, we all assume they engage in Activity X.
That said, Habits is still hardly great art. What’s it saying, anyway? I mean, yeah, you can host a party with this album and a bag of pretzels, but is there much going on under the surface? I’m gonna say no.
But, as I said, 2010 was great for Neon Trees and I have a lot of faith in their ability to stay on the charts with their next album and the one after that. Sure, times may change and they may prove inflexible, and yes I may be getting waaay ahead of things here, but I really think Neon Trees have a shot to be one of those bands that lasts. I hope this proves to be the case, because I have a dream for the future of Mormon arts and that dream is Neon Tree’s 2025 album. This album will get stellar reviews from Rolling Stone and junior high girls. It will be called “thoughtful” and “smart” and “deep and moving”, and it will rock just as hard as what they did way back in 2010, and it will say profound things from a distinctly Mormon vantage point without alienating their broad fanbase. They might still have hair that makes them want to wear a hat to sacrament meeting, but we’ll all feel proud that they’ve come out of our shared cultural and spiritual tradition—we’ll be happy to own them and they’ll be happy to own us.
And who knows. It may not even take that long. Brandon Flowers has already gone from “she’s touching his chest now / He takes off her dress now” to an entirely and intentionally spiritual album (Amazon).
By then we should be well represented by artists at the top of all fields, don’t you think? Even rock and roll.
Man. I can’t wait to hear that album.