Die Mannequin - Neon Zero (Cover Artwork)
Staff Review

Die Mannequin

Neon Zero (2014)

eOne Music

Die Mannequin out of Toronto have only been around since 2005, but everything they have released up to now has had a definitive sound. Perhaps not the greatest of female-fronted punk bands, their music is certainly enjoyable. And pretty catchy, too.

With Neon Zero, Die Mannequin have embraced a dancier sound -- their previous albums and EPs have all had a taste of it, but their newest release is different, but with the same attitude. Now, for those of you who are familiar with (and enjoy) Die Mannequin, you can rest assured. That heavy riff, drop d sound that has been so essential to their music is still there. It’s just easier to dance to now.

The second song on the album was the first song released by the band, “Sucker Punch.” It’s also the song that is the biggest departure from their usual sound. “Sucker Punch” has a dance-y tempo, stronger vocals and a more electronic sound, especially in the bridge. The style caught me off guard; but it is, essentially, punk rock you can dance to. And maybe more importantly, it’s catchy. It’s definitely single material.

The album leads off with “Welcome to the Badlands.” I’ll admit, I wasn’t sold on the new style right away, particularly in this song. Upon multiple plays, however, it’s certainly one of the highlights of the album. It does have everything one would expect from the band -- the thick guitars, the quick tempo and strong vocals from singer Care Failure. While the lyrics aren’t necessarily heavy, it’s a solid start to the album. Next up is “Knock Me Out,” perhaps one of the deeper songs on the album. It’s the kind of song any teenager can relate to, with chorus lyrics including “I never wanted to be myself, I always wanna be someone else.”

“I’m Just A Girl” is slower, sticking to a more repetitive song structure, but still working with the dance-pop theme of the album. “Pretty Persuasion,” the fifth track on the album, sounds like it could have been pulled right off of one of their earlier albums or EPs, with a few additions here and there, including piano and a slower intro. As soon as the guitars kick in, though, it’s more of what we’ve come to expect from the band. “Murder on the Dancefloor," the track that gives the album its name, sounds exactly like the title implies. It is, essentially, a darker dance track. Again, the lyrics aren’t much -- it would be a weaker track on the album if it wasn’t so catchy. “Ka-Ching” is fast and simple, “We Own The Night” is typical Die Mannequin and marginally slower.

“Blood In/Blood Out” slows things down a little, and doesn’t feature the same amount of thick and heavy guitars -- instead, there’s a focus on Care’s vocals and piano. Every album needs its ballad.

“Girls At The Mall,” too, sounds just as if it could have been pulled off Unicorn Steak or Fino + Bleed, the band’s earlier albums. It’s one of the heavier tracks on the album, a return to their slightly less dance-y sound, with shouts from Care Failure, blaring guitars, heavy-sounding lyrics. It’s Die Mannequin plain and simple, nothing new or different from them. “Outta Time” seems a suiting final track on the album. The song is vocal-focused, which shows off the strength of the band.

Neon Zero is an enjoyable, albeit not deep, listen, if you like that pop-dance-metal-punk sort of sound. It’s definitely a departure from their modus operandi, but it’s a sound that’s grown on me, personally. There’s something about any kind of punk music you can dance to, after all. It is, by no means, a spectacular or classic album, but it has its merits, and the world will always need more female-fronted bands to shout along with and dance to.