Neon Trees

Picture Show

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Neon Trees' debut Habits was only eight songs long, almost more of an EP than a true album, yet they made the most of it, taking their Strokes-meets-Killers pop in a far more mainstream direction than either of those influences with the joyfully hedonistic hit "Animal." Two years later, Picture Show proves that the band's flair for writing almost aggravatingly catchy songs is as strong as ever, particularly on the "Animal"-esque bounce of "Everybody Talks," the guitar-heavy version of the 2011 hit they had with Kaskade, "Lessons in Love (All Day, All Night)," and the frothy album closer "I Am the DJ." Along with the Killers' side project Big Talk, Neon Trees bring back a true pop/rock sound that's bright, shiny and undeniably kinetic but not necessarily aimed at the dancefloor. Picture Show not only reflects the increasing divide between pop and rock in the years since the '80s, it reveals that Neon Trees don't want to just bridge that gap -- they want to stand on either side of it, too. They stretch in several directions without being suicidally challenging, most successfully on "Teenage Sounds," where they downplay their new wave tendencies for some passably snarling and surly rock, and on "Mad Love," a twangy power pop homage featuring a duet between Tyler Glenn and Elaine Bradley. At times, Neon Trees stretch a little too far, as on "Moving in the Dark," where the acoustic guitars and handclaps might be aiming for John Cougar Mellencamp but land on Kid Rock, and on "Trust," where the mix of Glenn's full-throated vocals and sleazy electro synths falls flat. Likewise, the call and response of "Whitney/Amy/Whitney/Amy" on "Hooray for Hollywood" and the would-be anthemic "Still Young" try too hard to be taken seriously. Still, Neon Trees usually stay on the right side of the fine line between catchy and annoying, and though they're better at breadth than at depth, they're good at what they do.

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