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Freshcut

‘Picture Show’ Neon Trees

The band Neon Trees has decided to double down with the brash synth-rock sound on “Picture Show,” its sophomore release. The all-Mormon foursome from Provo, Utah packs a decent pop punch, but the arrangements meander from cautious to, unfortunately, contrived.

The band is fronted by Tyler Glenn, a talented vocalist full of tricks who is not afraid to use them all. The opening vocals on “Moving in the Dark” have tinges of Axl Rose’s soaring “Appetite”-era scream. And he’s just getting started.

Songs such as “Teenage Sounds” and “Hooray for Hollywood” supply plenty of pace, while lacking ingenuity. Drummer Elaine Bradley has the speed to drive a fast song faster, but her by-the-book turns and fills lack imagination.

Musically, it all circles back to Glenn’s vocals. If you like a raucous and occasionally whiny delivery, he’s your guy. Not to diminish his skill set, but his voice can go from good to grating in a heartbeat. Still, he’s the straw that stirs the drink.

“Picture Show” has 11 tracks and if they all sounded more like “Close to You” the band would have been better off. It has a lush late-1980s electronic vibe that exudes coolness. For a band that puts a premium on energy, they’ve done best here by slowing it down. Beautiful track.

All in all, “Picture Show” is a scattershot approach to being a well-backed rock band. Perhaps there’s a nice car commercial track here, and movie soundtrack song there and hopefully a hit along the way. Yet, the album feels artistically rudderless.

– Ron Harris, Associated Press

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