Rick Altizer's debut album Blue Plate Special was so packed full of hooky guitar riffs, infectious melodies, and a complete, polished sound that I wondered how he would ever top it. The simple answer is, he couldn't. What he did with Neon Fixation, however, was to create an album that is every bit the equal of his first, a sonic twin. Opening with fuzzed out, wiggy guitars, and layered vocals, "Disco Ball" combines first class songwriting with some great guitar licks as Altizer presents the theme of the album, that of our societies fixation on glitzy, cheap folderol. From this frantic, danceable sound, Altizer turns the heat up further with "TV Preacher", a rocking, rollicking roller coaster ride. "Ray Guns and Plastic Flash" continues to theme of the album with Altizer's characteristic choppy rhythms and distorto guitars. Songs such as "Let It Go" show his Dylan influence while "Untitled" shows a definite nod to Tom Petty... I'd say we're missing George Harrison and Jeff Lynne but the entire album has an underlying Beatles Sgt. Pepperish tone with an ever-changing cascade of timbres. Altizer knows he has a distinct sound and isn't afraid to let the world know it.
As on the previous album, Altizer plays nearly every instrument aside from a few guitar solos that erupt from the fevered mind of guitar innovator Adrian Belew. The melodies are upbeat and bright with a sound that is a cross between Mr. Music Head era Belew, Todd Rundgren, and The Traveling Wilburys. As with most do-it-all studio gurus, the music is heavily produced but not in an attempt to cover up deficiencies in the material. Indeed, one of Altizer's strengths is his ability to craft quickly appealing songs that belie their true depth. Repeated listens reveal multiple rhythmic and instrumental layers, subtle sonic textures tightly woven behind the flash, and mature lyrics that gain wisdom with each revelatory spin. All in all, an auditory delight and a true pleasure for fans of studio albums!
This article first appeared in WhatzUp, January 2000.