Don't Call Me Incomplete

Neon Golden by The Notwist

Most people are familiar with the story of The Notwist's transformation: "gloomy grunge misanthropes reborn as laptop-pop romantics". I first started listening to The Notwist when they had already finished their transformation, stumbling upon The Devil, You + Me in 2008. While enjoyable as background music (ouch, sorry!), it generally didn't make much of an impression on me. I barely even remembered listening to The Devil, You + Me when I found Neon Golden as a relatively high ranked album on most Best Of lists.

The first time I heard Neon Golden, I was laying in bed trying to find something to fill up the silence. I had tried listening to the album before, but it couldn't grab a hold of me. Given a moment with no distractions, the house at rest and my mind completely blank, I was immediately surprised by how familiar the album felt.

Most noticeably, for someone who loves lyrics as much as I've recently begun, it only struck me to try understanding the lyrics after the fifth or sixth time I had listened to the album. Markus Acher's voice is completely entrancing; Acher could call you a freak but somehow you'd keep smiling and nodding along, attracted to the way he texturalizes his words rather than caring about the meaning. And in fact, Acher does call you a freak, more than once in the course of the album. The opening track, "One Step Inside Doesn't Mean You'll Understand" ends with the line "Don't call me incomplete/You're the freak", while "One With the Freaks" repeatedly asks "Have you ever been all messed up?" and eventually states "All of a sudden/You are one with the freaks". When I finally looked up the lyrics, I was almost amazed that I had never even caught it.

While most lyrics can easily be construed as romantic (nearly every song is sung about a "we"), truly the most enrapturing aspect of the album is simply the music. Whether it is the percussion and rhythmic drums, the plucking of strings, or the many different electronic gurgles, crackles and static washes, the album is noticeably spaced and comfortable. Even the most driven tracks, like "Pilot" or "Pick Up the Phone", manage to still feel spaced in the sense that every sound is necessary, uncramped, and in its right place.

Strangely, the opening track perfectly describes my inability to write comprehensively or assuredly about the album: "One step inside doesn't mean you'll understand". 

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