City Slang – 2002 – 41 minutes

Former affiliates of the hardcore punk movement, German band The Notwist have come a long way since their 1990 debut. Their sixth album, 'Neon Golden' is a heartfelt mixture of warm acoustic sounds and electronic samples on songs about trains, freaks and "opaque air".

Markus Acher's contemplative vocals drift gently through Martin Gretschmann's musical manipulations, highlighted by classical string and horn arrangements by Micha Acher – it sounds like it shouldn't work but some strange alchemy has turned this odd-sounding mixture into pure gold.

Single 'Pilot' – a train-spotter's world of quiet desperation – is driven by a thumping bass line, reminiscent of New Order, title track 'Neon Golden' repeats a handful of words over a blues-type plucked guitar and 'One With The Freaks' starts off with repetitive squelches and ticks only to burst into sweet full-blown pop.

'Thrashing Days' sounds like early 90s Depeche Mode – if only DM had realised that they could incorporate banjo-playing into their hyped-up synth-rock – and the album closes with the simple beauty of 'Consequence', Acher murmuring "fail with consequence, lose with eloquence". 'Neon Golden' is an unexpected, but very welcome triumph.

Caroline Hennessy

Tracklisting: One Step Inside - Pilot - Pick Up The Phone - Trashing Days - This Room - Solitaire - One With The Freaks - Neon Golden - Off The Rails - Consequence