Neon Golden – The Notwist (2002)

Verdict – 9.1


The fifth album by German indie/electronica continued to steer the band away from its post-hardcore, post-rock roots as they further developed their interest in electronic music and complex structures. Neon Golden attempts to combine glitch electronics, indie rock and pop sensibilities into one whole, and in the process, creates an experimental masterpiece and one of the most unique and rewarding electronic albums of the decade. Pulsating beats, textured sounds and (lead singer) Markus Acher’s vocal sensibility grows on you, and they play on your unfamiliarity, and soon you find you can’t stop listening.

The songs are all sung in English yes, but you realise sometime after many, many listens that the lyrics are really quite arbitrary. They pass you by, and even these does not hamper the album at all. In fact, Acher’s voice is so genuine that the lyrics (which are actually quite abstract when focused on) are unimportant, just because his vocals are so absorbing. The brilliant opener, One Step Inside Doesn’t Mean You Understand, has a great vocal opener (in your world my feet are out of step… I will never read your stupid map, so don’t call me incomplete, you’re the freak) and utilises simple riffs and layers many on top of each other to create a second half of the song which demonstrates just how flawless this album can be. The pulsating, Pick up the Phone and Solitaire, grab at your attention with their glitch, textured drum loops at full force. Two of the album’s greatest moments are when the loops first hit you.

One with the Freaks, is an amazing accomplishment, as they have clearly made a pop song, essentially employing no usual pop base. The lyrics aren’t very likable (although very relatable, “Have you ever been all messed up?), the music is complex and strange, yet the song is undeniably catchy. Album highlight, Off the Rails, is a brilliantly complex little song (with great little breakdowns), in the context of relationships, Acher relates himself to a train. “We’re off the rails… No wait and see, we’re off this place… This is all I know, sitting still to watch the engines come and go.” (Implying he is no longer in a relationship, not going to ‘wait’ to work it out, it’s over. But in the end, it is all he knows, so he yearns for the next one, and is waiting for the right person. This verse is repeated numerous times to show the recurring failed relationships we so often have).

The album’s best track lies in the closer, Consequence. A mesmerising mixture of electronica and acoustics, and one of the most absorbing ballads you’ll ever hear. Acher sings, “You’re the colour, you’re the movement and the spin,” (Clever way of saying ‘you’re everything’) to a subtle backdrop of instrumentation, before closing the song with the repetition of the lines, “Leave me paralyzed, love. Leave me hypnotized, love.”

Where Acher’s fascination with the term ‘freaks’ originates from is something I’m not aware of, however, I am sure that all ‘freaks’ will find something to love in this album. From the brilliant start to the even better end, Neon Golden is a captivating record, illustrating experimentation at its very finest. Maybe it’s a bit too electronic for some, too ambient, but for those willing to give it a chance, listeners will hear one of the most exquisite and beautiful albums of the decade.

Top Songs – One Step Inside Doesn’t Mean You Understand, One with the Freaks, Consequence


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