01 New Bright Lights (4:27)
02 Come Undone (3:37)
03 Disconnected (3:04)
04 Glow (3:20)
05 Remedy (3:36)
06 All For Love (3:31)
07 The Righteous Ones (3:57)
08 Revenge (3:49)
09 Save Me (4:36)
10 Better Love (2:56)
11 Sober (4:39)
12 Neon Cathedral (4:29)
13 Sound Of The City (3:56)
The summer of 2013 saw the release of the debut album „Neon Cathedral“ by German model-turned-singer Ben Ivory. It was published after Ivory gained a hit on the German club charts and participated in the preliminary round for Eurovision Song Contest. Despite reaching a moderate 7th place there, the singer dropped this collection of dance music and synth pop soon after. I feared that the music on „Neon Cathedral“ is as bland the horribly photoshopped cover artwork – and I was right.
Are you the sell-out or solution?
New Bright Lights functions as an appetizer for the album: it’s a shimmering slice of electro pop that profits from monotonous (but no boring!) verses and a chorus is filled with hooks („In this cold, cold night we’re searching for the satellites / In this dull suburban town we need some new bright lights“). The contrast between verses and chorus gets stuck in your head and helps the track as an introduction song, leaving you eager to hear more. Second track Come Undone is more of an upbeat track. Some passages a sung in falsetto, and Ivory’s voice sounds really good in the higher pitches. Unfortunately the clichéd lyrics („I come undone / It’s getting colder / The summer’s gone / The days grow older“) borrow more from Modern Talking than from Pet Shop Boys and detract from the otherwise nice song. But what can you expect from a dance pop record? Featuring a terrible 4/4 beat, Disconnected presents Ivory the android to us – I don’t recognise a single trace of emotion in here. There’s slight use of autotune in the singer’s voice, and I can’t help but wonder of this tune is a leftover from Kylie Minogue in her „Light Years“ era. Follow-up Glow contains a beat that’s typical for a midtempo dance tune and a chorus with hymn-like characteristics („All eyes on me and I will take my chance / Nothing will stop me tonight, I got to glow“). This one describes the moment of carelessness when you’re on the dancefloor and does a fine job.
Pristine and elegant, Remedy is a midtempo synth pop track with a clear Depeche Mode influence. It’s rather calm, featuring beautiful verses and a chorus that lingers subtly („I break into laughter / When I feel like crying / I’d give the world / For a remedy“). After „New Bright Lights“ this is the best track so far. As good as „Remedy“ is, All For Love is the complete opposite: the pompous chorus is way overblown, the lyrics and music are boring and uninspired. This song tries hard to evoke emotions but completely misses the point. The Righteous Ones was Ivory’s entry in the preliminary rounds for the Eurovision Song Contest. A hymn for all the outsiders („We are the freaks, we are the queers / We are the shockers, we are all here“) that speeds up the tempo in the anthemic chorus („You can close your eyes if you want to / Lock your doors and hide if we haunt you / Get your guns and knives if we scare you / But we ain’t going nowhere, no, we ain’t going nowhere“). The song plays with many keyboard effects and sounds reminiscent of 80s disco pop but with a modern approach. Although the tinny drum beat sounds cheap, the song’s self-assured message seems authentic and empowering. I didn’t expect a disco fox rhythm on Revenge… but it’s a nice surprise! The track offers plenty of electronic effects again while serving slight touches of guitars. It’s catchy as hell and close to a German genre called „Schlager“ due to it’s ear-friendly structure and arrangement. Save Me brings hand claps as well as a contemporary r’n’b groove into the mix. Despite the music being enjoyable, the lyrics are blurry + don’t seem sincere („You were my parachute / Why do you save me?“). When the song fades out a robotic voice delivers a speech – – I guess this feature was meant to be artistic but it’s random and arty instead.
Club hit Better Love could have been recorded in the 80s since it sounds like an album track by Erasure. Ivory’s voice channels Andy Bell’s voice on this, which is a compliment. Suitable for a dancefloor hit, the sparse words fit the song this time around („It’s better love / It’s better love, that you’re giving me“). After the bomb that is „Better Love“, electro pop ballad Sober cools the temper down. The words are about the fear of waking up alone after a one night stand which is another facet of party life. In short this tune’s nothing special and more of filler material. Neon Cathedral starts the home stretch with futuristic synth effects and a grand use of cow bells (hello, 90s!). Playing with religious images („In a neon cathedral, we’re gone, we pan, we just exult / We’re praising Jay and Pi and Shiva – get on your leases side“), this is dark synth pop at its best. The title track works as a hybrid of Depeche Mode and Pet Shop Boys and doesn’t fall flat. Last comes Sound Of The City, a chill-out ditty driven by a slow and plucking groove. Over nice backing vocals in the chorus the singer summarizes the whole album and its purpose: telling the story of wild nights, parties, love affairs, the joy and sadness that it brings. It’s a refreshing end to an uneven record, finishing with a neat choir arrangement of several voice tracks by Ivory.
Will you still be with me when I’m sober?
Oh Ben, you didn’t make it easy for me. I’d like to say that your debut album is a smash, but it isn’t. For every great pop song you offer on „Neon Cathedral“, there are two that try too hard to sound like someone else. Your dance pop feels anemic and cold most of the time, a circumstance which simply doesn’t match the hymns of self-regard you love to throw at us. Instead of selling a picture-perfect image, how about some heartfelt emotions next time? I believe in you as a newcomer worth to discover, but not in the religion of your „Neon Cathedral“…
3 out of 5