Neon and Ruin
2005, Mt. Fuji Records
Neon and Ruin opens without a real sense of urgency, much to its benefit. "Telepathic Lovesick Heart," the album's opening track, is relaxed and laid-back, setting a fairly consistent theme across the whole of the album. Instead of opening with a track that causes listeners to panic, Slender Means instead decided to open with a fairly simple and poppy guitar-based track — a move that seems almost regretful at its surface, but in this execution, at least, it manages to give Neon and Ruin a pair of steady legs to stand on.
"Hidden Grove" follows "Telepathic Lovesick Heart" beautifully, taking a previously subtle element in the keyboards and bringing them to the forefront of the composition. Instead of approaching his instrument with lavishly crafted solos and intense stylistic flare, keyboardist David Martin plays with a distinctive style while not attempting to steal any of the proverbial limelight; the rest of the band follows suit, appropriately. The feeling of cooperation and comradery that accompanies Slender Means' positively unique stylings adds a breath of fresh air (not that one was needed — following metaphorically, Neon and Ruin feels like it was recorded in fresh summer air, but it's always a nice addition to any recording. Besides, a little fresh air never hurt anyone.)
Though Slender Means never does achieve that sense of urgency (and, admittedly, it's certainly not an essential bit of music, by any means, though some groups seemingly treat it as such), they do manage to create captivating music. The laid-back feel it encompasses never really feels limited; rather, it tends to leave listeners nearly satiated — enough room left over for dessert, really, and they definitely deliver: "The Comet," arguably the most entrancing track on the album, with its spacey feel (and title) and apparently meaningful lyrics (though, nobody can judge on such matters but the lyrics' writers, after all), delivering what is, perhaps, a metaphorical rendition of songwriter Josh Dawson's perceptions of life, wrapped up and shown as a comet, apparently meandering through space without aim. Dawson's lyrical musings are interesting and, quite often, filtered through stories and layers of meaning.
Neon and Ruin is Slender Means' debut album, though you'd never guess it while listening. With a steady, solid rhythm provided by drummer Eric Wennberg and bassist Paul Pugliese, Slender Means is a tight musical outfit, and, appearances being what they are, a band that's bound to stick around for a while longer yet.