Boomkat Product Review:
The 4th album from Austin musician Abram Shook, is a dystopian dance party, and everyone’s invited.
"Juxtaposed against 2017’s sepia-tinged, quietly reflective Love at Low Speed, the new record’s mix of irresistible beats and slyly humorous lyrics might seem like a 180 at first glance: a giddy, knowing soundtrack to the end of the world. The varied influences of world music and jazz that are present in all his records can still be heard (as in the High-Life inspired guitar work on “My Money”), though here Shook tucks them into the corners and uses them in more subtle ways, giving center stage to a vintage Sequential Circuits Prophet 600, a drum sequencer, and his signature rubbery bass lines.
In Shook’s adept hands, The Neon Machine is full of day-glo danceability even though something slightly sinister lurks beneath the surface; it’s a kind of tour de force synesthesia for the fevered mind. With this record, Shook has traded in his usual gimlet-eyed observations for a playfully cynical sense of humor. Using highly confessional lyrics and deeply personal insight to convey his anger, with the current political climate, he writes candidly about his anxieties, and frustrations toward a country and culture that he’s grown up with, but hasn’t always felt at home in. Full of Prince-esque riffs, Blood Orange-style beats, and David Bowie allusions, The Neon Machine is accessible and adventurous at once. It has as its backdrop a party that’s lasted too long, and the foreground of a narrator full of anxiety and skepticism whose hangover has already begun.
The beauty of it lies in its malleability. What appears on the surface to be an effervescent album of pop anthems, with its familiar themes of sex, love and drugs, soon reveals its true heart: the intimate insights of a man, long accustomed to being an outside observer, who has decided to join the fray. “In a lot of ways it feels like the record I’ve always wanted to make.”