Neon Thrills
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Neon Thrills

Band Rock Pop


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"Melody + punch = a good time"

Sweet Cactus
(Bad Beat)
It must be an exciting time to be in New York these days, with sharp rock & roll bands seemingly on every street corner. The latest ready-for-prime-time players are the Neon Thrills, brandishing their debut album Sweet Cactus like a proud papa showing off his tap-dancing two-year-old. The quartet uses crackling rhythm guitar work, gritty vocals and New Wave background synths to snap-crackle-rock its way through a catchy set of pop tunes. Cuts like "I Think You Should Know," "I'll Tell You Tomorrow" and "Everybody Just Takes and Takes" would almost be bubblegum if not for the tough manhandling. Sure, "Your Unfunny Joke" sounds like it should be playing behind two impossibly beautiful teenagers kissing, but that doesn't mean it ain't a good song. Melody + punch = a good time had by all.
- Michael Toland
- High Bias

"#88 in 100 best albums of 2004"

Although absolute perfection is a statistical impossibility, musically speaking, Neon Thrills approaches the lofty pinnacle with its superb debut album. Everything about this release rates an A+, from the crisp songwriting to the infectious pop musicianship. And it's all done without gadgets or gimmickry, just a unique combination of sophistication and simplicity that will leave listeners' collective memory bank filled with sharp, catchy tunes for a very long time. So, as the major label Lilliputians sit around circle-jerking over their latest transparent bands-of-the-moment, the chore of creating lustrous pop gems is left to Neon Thrills, one of the few acts on the scene who knows how to do it right. For those yet to experience musical enlightenment, Sweet Cactus will grant immediate access into maximum pop nirvana. It is a journey that is... neon thrilling… -

"Crafted Pop Tunes"

Neon Thrills offer crafted pop tunes with heavy helpings of glam posturing and gratuitous guitar soloing. - The Village Voice

"Arena Rock Pleasure"

[Neon Thrills] deliver a swirling mass of brit pop and 70's arena rock pleasure... - ToxicPopNYC

"Ripping Guitar Solos"

...power pop with ripping guitar solos. - The L Magazine

"Best Band For Thrillin' and Chillin': Neon Thrills"

Now that The Strokes have been exposed as bloated, minimally talented rich kids, and The Mooney Suzuki has become starry eyed and moved to Los Angeles, New York's musical renaissance has been left in the capable hands of the wondrous Star Spangles. Spearheading the revival is no easy task however, thus the Spangles can count on the support of multidimensional Neon Thrills to assist in leading the charge. Unlike many of their contemporaries, Neon Thrills cannot be assigned a simple identifying tag. Culling all that is good from '70s, '80s and '90s, the self proclaimed pioneers of "Maximum Pop" harness an original brand of musicality reserved for but a few established acts. Expertly crafted songs anchored by the dual vocal efforts of guitarist Joe Stamer and bassist Mark Rinzel create a unique aural hybrid, combining aspects of The Raspberries and Cheap Trick with Big Country and Weezer. The band's ability to shift gears with rally car precision is uncanny: One moment they're floating along on a breeze of wistful melodies, the next they're kicking everyone in the ass as drummer Bernie Davis and keyboardist Jon Sabol join the fray. No band has more readily embodied levels of textural diversity and accessibility since the early incarnation of REM.

With a dearth of polished acts to choose from these days, a truly talented band is something of an anomaly. So just how good are these guys? Suffice it to say that come their debut release in July 2004, even the atheists among us will be thanking God for the arrival of Neon Thrills. As it is also the date of America's Independence, it isn't surprising that they are destined, with The Star Spangles, to further the pop revolution.

Still not convinced? Then check out a gig and take the Neon Thrills Challenge: The band guarantees a free drink to anyone who doesn't go away with at least one hook or harmony lodged in his/her memory bank. But be prepared to buy your own beverages boys and girls, 'cause Neon Thrills ain't bought a round yet.

— Adam Williams
- Pop Matters

"Top of the Pop..."

What exactly is pop? A quick look back to the '60s will show that the genre was defined by the initial wave of British Invasion bands including the Beatles, Kinks and early Who. Once the '70s arrived, pop split off into separate entities, the first epitomized by the finely crafted work of acts such as Cheap Trick, the second by non-efforts from manufactured lightweights like the Partridge Family, Bay City Rollers and Leif Garrett. As the new wave age ushered in the '80s, the bastard half of the genre took over, aligning itself with choreographed MTV icons such as Michael Jackson and Madonna, when underappreciated artists like the Long Ryders and Big Country were the real keepers of the pop flame. The balance of power shifted back towards an unsteady equilibrium in the '90s with the rise of REM, and later Oasis; proof that legitimate mainstream pop success need not be contingent upon a lack of creative integrity. By today's standards though, pop is readily associated with anything from flavor-of-the-minute boy bands to scantily clad faux divas. "Pop" has subsequently become something of a dirty word, synonymous with style over substance mass production. As a result, the vast majority of new groups travel routes far removed from traditional pop, identifying themselves instead within various sub-genres from punk pop to alt-pop to emo. As with past decades however, a courageous few choose to dispense with the herd mentality and fly the true pop flag proudly. By incorporating sharp songwriting and musicianship into its repertoire, Neon Thrills is one such band.

With the release Sweet Cactus, guitarist Joe Stamer, bassist Mark Rinzel, drummer Bernie Davis and keyboardist Jon Sabol revisit music's glorious past with a collection of songs best described as Maximum Pop: Aggression without anger, passion without pretense, intelligence without arrogance, all layered with enough edge to keep the album rocking, while making it readily accessible to the discerning ear.

Adhering to a simple formula of melding muscular guitar hooks with catchy melodies, Stamer and Rinzel share lead vocal duties, as the nine tracks resonate with energy and honesty. From the power chord driven openers "Nothing Wrong" and "I Think You Should Know," (both of which hearken back to Guided by Voices' finest recordings), the album boasts a diversified yet sophisticated sound throughout; the wide swath which cuts across creative influences is evidence of Neon Thrills' attention to detail and commitment to pop authenticity. As such, it isn't shocking that echoes of the Beatles' "No Reply" can be heard on "Everyone Just Takes and Takes," or "Your Unfunny Joke" bears an audible hint of Creation's "I Am the Walker." Listening more closely to the latter, one can even hear Sabol tracing John Paul Jones' haunting organ work on Zeppelin's "No Quarter."

And what would a true pop record be without a pair of tunes about heartbreak? "Two Cigarettes" and "For All I Know" fit the bill perfectly, blending crisp guitar licks, keyboards and aching vocals together without sounding contrived.

As strong an outing as Sweet Cactus is, its ultimate value comes by way of two tracks that exemplify pop perfection: "Disgraceful" and "I'll Tell You Tomorrow" float along as if carried on a warm summer breeze, anchored by Davis' and Rinzel's loping rhythms. Capitalizing on what Rooney recently started, the songs are nothing short of contagious fun, both guaranteed to cast a ray of sunshine on the darkest day by eliciting unbridled humming and hand clapping at every turn.

So then, based upon this wonderful new recording, is it a stretch to classify Neon Thrills in the lofty company of its predecessors? Perhaps, but upon repeated listening, Sweet Cactus will distinguish itself as a superb offering, one that has been crafted in the image of great pop artists from the past. The quality of the disc sets it apart from all of today's musical conveyor belt output, and easily makes it an early contender in the Top Albums of 2004 category.

Simple, straight forward pop music, just like it used to be. Prepare yourself for a very pleasant surprise.

— 1 September 2004 -


"Sweet Cactus" - full length debut July 2004 on Bad Beat Records, available at No Karma (

"Truck" EP, Winter 2003

Online media:
Flash player w/ full songs:

Quicktime video, live aboard the Half Moon, record release boat cruise 7/1/2004


Feeling a bit camera shy


By merging intelligent songwriting with catchy melodies and crunching rock riffs, Neon Thrills create their own unique blend of "Maximum Pop."

Hailing from New York City and New Jersey, the bands' hooky, harmony-laden stylings draw inspiration from '60's/'70's psychedelic/glam, '80s guitar/synth anthems & '90s indie rock.

Neon Thrills' self-produced debut album "Sweet Cactus" boasts nine superbly crafted songs. Sophisticated yet simple and straight forward, "Sweet Cactus" is pop music just like it ought to be.

Key Points:
- "Sweet Cactus" included in (750,000 hits per month, international) list of the top 100 albums of 2004, coming in at #88.
- Selected by G106.3FM New Jersey as a part of a Budweiser True Music competition. Featured in special promotional spot on the station with corresponding 2 hour live show.
- Recently featured on as part of their “Now Hear This” feature, an annual survey of the country’s up-and-coming bands.
- Promoted record release in NYC with a Rocks Off ( boat cruise around Manhattan (7/1) and by holding a month-long, weekly residency Thursdays in August at Luna Lounge, a premier NYC venue.
- Bassist/Singer Mark Rinzel recently performed in the critically acclaimed Loser’s Lounge ( “tributes” to Jesus Christ and Prince.