Wednesday, October 31st, 2018

Tim McGraw – Neon Church

No relation to Eric…


Alfred Soto: These days, “Humble and Kind” notwithstanding, I believe Tim McGraw when Faith Hill shares a mike; otherwise he’s apt to record soggy plaints like “Neon Church,” replete with honky tonk angels with their wings on fire drinkin’ Johnnie Walker. The organ and guitars are well-recorded, though, but they sure ain’t honky tonk.

Thomas Inskeep: The country haters will cite opening line “I need Jesus or I need whiskey” as a reason to dislike this, but that’s short-sighted; the premise of the bar as church is a country music tradition, and McGraw builds upon it with “Neon Church.” His vocal is one of his best in some time — he’s pushing the upper edge of his voice, and it sounds great. The guitars here lick the edges of the song, all fire-like, and this sounds awfully anthemic. And it’s country as hell.

Katie Gill: You could make a Time Life Treasury collection of country songs that use religious symbolism in a secular context: baptize me with something romantic, insert a sexy angel metaphor here, yeah I guess this is my church, etc. It feels like McGraw heard a song like “My Church,” saw how successful it was, and went, “What if I write something like that but about being drunk and being sad?” We’ve heard this song a billion times before. And McGraw KNOWS we’ve heard this song a billion times before, because he is barely putting any effort into these vocals. This song wouldn’t even make the first two volumes of that Time Life Treasury.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: What is it with country artists who compare drinking and other vices to spirituality and think this basic analogy is interesting in and of itself? Are the genre’s Southern roots meant to make this feel enormously profound? There is interesting stuff happening here: the subtle talk-singing in the first verse, the sparse synth arpeggio in the second verse, the way Tim McGraw says “honky-tonk.” The guitar solo and processional organ chords are also admittedly dreamy–familiar tropes made refreshing when placed inside a hazy, crowded mix. Sigh. Fine, I’ll throw a few bucks in the collection plate, er, tip jar.

Katherine St Asaph: So are there brawls? Are buybacks indulgences? Is someone checking IDs at the church door (wouldn’t shock me tbh)? Did someone knock a candle over and light the girls’ arms on fire? The central conceit is stretched as far as Tim’s overprocessed voice.

Taylor Alatorre: “Neon” is a good metonym for drinking because, when juxtaposed against “church,” it’s suggestive of a whole range of worldly vices: gambling, prostitution, computer screens, modernity in general. Cognitive dissonance can be a jumping-off point for songwriters in a bind, even if the particular conflict between Jesus and whiskey is a country subgenre unto itself. Where “Neon Church” errs is in making the jumping-off point the entire point. There’s a failed relationship somewhere in the mix, but it’s forgotten after the first few lines, supplanted by clunky literalisms like “unholy water” and generic lines about partying. The generous reading is that this is meant to replicate the inebriated mindset, an idea supported by the bleary maximalist production, power ballad pacing, and background vocals that sound like Kings of Leon karaoke. The ungenerous reading is that it’s all sentimentalism and not much sentiment. This had the potential to be more than a targeted Facebook ad for people who list “drinking with the boys” as one of their interests.

Julian Axelrod: From the title down to the searing 3 a.m. guitar solo, this sounds like Bruce Springsteen tried to write an M83 song, but lacks either of those artists’ ambition. This song is as comfortable and unassuming as the bar where it takes place.

Ramzi Awn: His voice sounds great, but Tim may as well have painted a picture of a pickup truck with a Perez Hilton sad face on it in neon, because that’s about all “Neon Church” conjures up.

Reader average: [7] (1 vote)

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