Rather than basking in the relative success of 2013’s promising debut ‘Absolute Magnitude’, Neon Atlas frontman Kieran Ring and producer Ciaran O’Shea were already orchestrating its follow-up. Eager to avoid the many pitfalls associated with second albums, they naturally aimed a bit higher, intending to incorporate a new band, introduce a heavier, more substantial sound, and to write a more definitive, structured album.
One listen to ‘Graffiti Reality’ and it’s quite evident that they have succeeded on all three counts. Neon Atlas have successfully completed the transition from solo act to band, they have created a progressive structural upgrade on their first record, and, they have established a signature sound for themselves. The only problem is that the signature sound in question is quite dated, and not entirely original. Harking back to the new wave of melody-driven punk and emo-rock that saturated the market in the early-to-mid 2000s, up-tempo, radio friendly tracks like ‘Get Up’, ‘Punch Drunk’, ‘Stars and Echoes’ and new single ‘I Never Felt So Good’ may get the feet tapping, but they never offer anything above the usual, predictable fare.
Darker, more intriguing tunes like ‘Velocity’ and the album’s title track do see the band leave their comfort zone briefly, but other than that you never really get the impression you’re listening to anything other than another American, MTV-spawned punk band (all the more surprising considering Neon Atlas are from Cork!).
Credit where it’s due, the band certainly know how to make a pop tune and they seem to have the musical talents to back it up. As a said rock act however, they just don’t seem to have enough of a sense of purpose or identity to leave a lasting impression as of yet. Next time, a few surprises wouldn’t go amiss.