Nothing Shines Like Neon
Randy Rogers Band
Less cyberpunk than expected, but still full of little pleasures.
As an album, Nothing Shines Like Neon has some peaks and valleys; “Rain and the Radio” and “Old Moon New” both do what they’re trying to do well, while a song like “Actin’ Crazy” seems either so steeped in jargon (or just plain not well written) that it makes a whole mess. But as a total package, the record is so suffused with interesting imagery and sonic moments that it comes out ahead of being flattened.
That imagery is the neon, and admittedly some of the interest is because of my own presuppositions. It’s in the title, but it’s made explicit in “Neon Blues” and “Tequila Eyes” that the neon’s not the Orientalist Blade Runner future of deck cowboys and synthetic drugs, but the local bar. And, to shoot straight: that’s the only use of neon that’s ever rung true with my experience, so I appreciate it.
Beyond that, though, there’s the Muppets-esque sing-a-long at the end of “Meet Me Tonight” — just for a line — and the exquisite little drum fills on “Things I Need to Quit.” It’s precisely these things that push an album past the threshold, that make it more interesting and engaging than another exercise. Even taking into account the more maudlin moments that crystallize into “Look Out Yonder,” these moments contribute to a feeling that the album is textured, that it has both ideas and execution. Nothing Shines Like Neon might not live up to either aspect, but it does enough to make it an album well worth hearing.