When someone talks about the hard rock scene of Toronto, it is pretty much impossible to not mention one of the most influential female-led bands, Die Mannequin. Their hard rock and ingenious lyrics, delivered by raw-voiced Care Failure, was the focus of Bruce MacDonald’s most recent mockumentary Hard Core Logo 2. With 3 Eps and one LP, FINO + BLEED, under their belt, Die Mannequin took some time off and have come back with a new angle on their sound, with Neon Zero.
The album still stays true to the heavy guitar and drums common in Die Mannequin’s earlier work, but there is now the addition of EDM beats, inspired by Care’s gigs over the past few years as a DJ in and around Toronto.
The opening track, “Welcome To The Badlands” definitely lives up to its name, introducing the listener to the feel for the album. The second track, and lead single, “Sucker Punch” is about a woman being in love with a guy who is already taken. The second verse has Care trying her hand at rapping, which actually works with her voice.
The album takes a softer tone with “I’m Just A Girl”, a rock ballad which is empowering and terrifying at the same time, with Care reflecting on her life so far. The main message is in the chorus, with her singing, “Hang me up, tear me down. Fuck all you cynics, when you take me down. Write me up, count me out. This one goes out to all my down and outs.”
The next song is definitely a throwback to FINO + BLEED; “Knock Me Out” has very heavy bass and guitar lines throughout, to accompany the dark lyrics about self-image and confidence. Care confesses in the chorus, “I never wanted to be myself. I always wannabe someone else. I never wanted to be me, so doctor, better knock me out. I never wanted to be myself, I always wannabe someone else. I’m built to fail by design, so doctor, better knock me out.”
“Pretty Persuasion” has a very heavy drum line throughout the song, with Care singing both lead and backup vocals. It is about a fight for dominance in a relationship, with both the girl and guy giving up and losing everything for each other; “I know, I know you will follow me down, wanting more. I know, I know now you’re under my every control. I know, I know yeah I’ve found you my body and soul.”
The dance feel comes back very strong in “Murder On The Dance-floor”, which is about the blend of genres that has been happening recently and how dance music has become more rock or vice versa. Care proclaims “I’m your Neon Zero, your fluorescent hero, I’m your captain killer… It’s a murder on the dance-floor, I’m the killer in your stereo, we set it lose like it’s criminal, so all you girls, boys, do the noise, it’s the new obsession.”
“Ka-Ching” is a fantastic combination song of rock and dance, where the band focuses on society and how bands have to follow societal norms to be successful. The breakdown at the end of the song is a good separation of the album, adding some calm acoustic piano and vocals, even if it’s only for about 20 seconds.
“We Own The Night” is a great anthem for misfits to rock out to. Care sounds like a leader of rebels, proclaiming “We’re wild and scared, we’re young and we’re bored. We know we only have tonight. Surrender your bones to the darkness of your soul, yeah we adore the night. Live like we’re dying tonight; we’re young and this is our time. Live in the moment tonight.”This song is very different from the other songs, because the blend of hard rock and dance is seamless.
“Blood In Blood Out” is a booming ballad with the majority of the song being deep drums and melodic piano lines. The song is about how even though a couple broke up, there is still a connection that will never break. It is clear that there is longing in Care’s voice throughout the song, giving the feeling that she is singing about someone in particular.
The hard rock, guitar-led tracks come back with the oddly named “Girls At The Mall”. The song is about how girls should be strong because “it’s a man’s world, honey”. There is also the materialization of women referenced again, like in “I’m Just A Girl” and “Pretty Persuasion”, with Care stating “One step closer and you control me, last obsession, last girl standing. Help me, help me get out.”
The final song has a suitable title for its placement; “Outta Time”. It starts with odd vocals and breathing by Care, over drums and rough guitar. The feel of the song, with Care’s vocal being the roughest here than any other song, gives the listener the feeling that this is sound and energy of when Die Mannequin performs live. The bridge best embodies the song, where Care quickly throws out “And every time I breathe, I feel the rush come over me. The kind of sickness that if you could see, you won’t believe. In my own heart, I am a hostage to the memory, I try to run away but something gets the best of me”.
The album is a great return for the band after five years since their last album. The sound is a lot stronger and the inclusion of the synths and dance beats is very well done. This is a definite buy for anyone looking for something to rock out to.
Here is the video for their awesome song “Candide”; even though it is from FINO + BLEED, there aren’t any videos for Neon Zero yet: