London – New York – Whitstable
Martin, Mark & Stephen. Straight out of Surrey. 36 years too late.
New Album ‘Neon Highway’ available now.
Let’s get in our DeLorean time machine and set the dial to 1981, Banstead, Surrey, England. We arrive to see an Atari plugged in, a ‘new romantic’ shirt hanging up, and Synth pop taking over the world. Three school kids, Mark Duggan, Martin West and Steve Shillito are drinking tea and obsessing over electronic bands like Kraftwerk, John Foxx and Thomas Dolby. A friend buys a Roland SH-02 synthesizer which they promptly borrow, and the band known as ‘Don’t Mention It’ bleeps and blinks into existence.
As we drive our time machine through the early 80’s we see the boys renting out synths, drum machines and a 4-track Portastudio. Long bank holiday weekends are then spent improvising straight to tape and drinking more tea.
By the mid 80’s the synth wave band falls apart as the young men go their own way. Mark forms a record company; Martin plays bass in a brit-pop band and moves to New York and Steve goes on to form the New Wave band Sweet Machine.
Hit the gas to February 2020. Martin posts an old ‘Don’t Mention It’ track on Facebook which peaks interest in getting the band back together. Despite the geographic distance, the COVID 19 lockdown provides the breathing space to dust off the synths and record a comeback album 36 years later.
They fall instantly into familiar roles with Mark on vocals, synths and guitar, Martin on keyboards, bass and guitar, and Steve on Drum Machine and FX. But now, they recruit a new generation. In keeping with their experimental approach, they recruit Mark’s daughters’ Holly and Lucy who guest star on the new album adding their own unique vocal style.
‘Neon Highway’ is the result of four months’ work re-recording old faves and writing new ones. Honouring the days of vinyl, the album has two distinct sides, Side A (tracks 1-5) is songfocused and weaves between the drama of Yello, early Simple Minds and the dark funkiness of Duran Duran’s first album. Here you’ll find Holly and Lucy taking the spotlight on ‘Insane’ as well as the albums title track.
Side B (tracks 5-10) is more instrumental, reminiscent of Kraftwerk and other pioneers of early electronic music, but also takes a side road to the 90’s with chill out tracks like ‘Weymouth Dreaming’ and ‘The Essence Of Tubular Dreaming’. And just like the old days, the band recorded an outro; a fun romp that thanks the fans.
Who knows where the road goes from here, but it seems ‘Neon Highway’ is not the final destination. New tracks are being written for a possible second album before the first album’s release on iTunes, Spotify Bandcamp and more. So it seems this band has more mileage left in the tank. The future looks bright, neon bright.