Pop psychology: an unraveling of the messages that are broadcasted by this amusing, disposable, swirling mess of highs and lows that we call pop culture. Coincidentally, that is exactly how the album “Pop Psychology” sounds (zing!).
All jokes aside though, if there’s something interesting to say about the shallow elements of young twenty-somethings going clubbing while they dance along that fine line between ironically detached and frustratingly without self-awareness, Neon Trees fails to take any initiative.
“Pop Psychology” does not have a lot to say unless you are under the age of 15 and comparing love to roller coasters, drugs or magnets still seems like a novel idea to you.
From a lyrical standpoint, you don’t get much more lazy. “Love in the 21st Century” finds Neon Trees dipping firmly into the hook-friendly formula of synth-rock that’s worked for them in the past.
But unlike past singles, it does very little to rise above the surface of the hum-drum and predictable. Tyler Glenn wailing sentiments like “I’m sick of wondering if you would ever call me back/I check my four different accounts just to end up being mad” would be interesting if explored, but this band lacks the chops to ever say anything beyond simple descriptions of vapid elements of the most shallow of romances.
And that’s before you get to “Text Me In The Morning.” Here’s a sample of the lyrics: “text me in the morning/tell me you still love me/I don’t believe a single word.” Pair that chorus with Tyler Glenn’s shrill-as-hell voice, and you have the album’s lowest point.
Some ground is thankfully salvaged by the time “Sleeping With A Friend” starts up with an effectively catchy chorus dominated by “oohs.” Say what you will, Neon Trees know how to hook the hell out of a good chorus when they get one.
But then the march of inoffensive, cliche-ridden pop continues on. While the album never reaches the annoying depths of “Text Me In The Morning” again, the rest of the songs suffer from being all but crushed by the same lazy, jangly pop hooks ad nauseum.
The results are promising the few times Neon Trees dares to break form. “I Love You (But I Hate Your Friends)” has a very cool, summery disco-vibe to it, mixed in with an intriguing, funky post-punk intro before the bland chorus kicks in doing its best to make you forget it.
“Foolish Behavior” is a great tune that sounds enjoyably close to being a Prince B-side transported into the mid 90s. The Neon Trees even manage to resist the urge to hit the “chorus-goes-here” button for “Voices In The Hall.” The usual bombastic chorus lines are nixed for a more moody, pretty atmospheric sound complete with strings. It actually sounds pretty good once you forget that it’s simply the sounds of Neon Trees in ballad mode.
“Pop Psychology” is a shallow record that never offers anything substantial and is only rarely enjoyable. When you’re incapable of saying anything deep you can at the very least make a record that sounds fun. And by fun I mean not something that could be mistaken for a lazy commercial jingle.