Formed in the small town of Leuvin, just outside Brussels around the duo of Dirk Da Davo (synths, vocals) and TB Frank (guitar, drum machine, vocals), The Neon Judgement are seen by many as pioneering the first wave of the EBM movement alongside fellow countrymen Front 242. After achieving their first real dancefloor hit with 1982’s ‘Factory Walk’ single, this 1983 12” EP ‘Cockerill-Sombre’ (now reissued on vinyl by Dark Entries) sees the duo crafting a fusion of New Wave vocals, terse drum machine rhythms, synths and guitar that’s perhaps more comparable to a European take on Suicide than anything else.
‘Please Release Me, Let Me Go-Go’ offers the most midtempo offering here, as Da Davo’s clipped vocals glide atop a crisp backing of electro rhythms and jangling guitar, the chilly minor key synths throwing the track into minimal wave territory just before he slides into a Sugarhill-influenced rap that’s easily one of the more unexpected highlights here, Frank’s dubbed out backing vocals adding a slightly anarchic edge. By contrast, ‘Too Cool To Breathe’ kicks the clicking 808 snares up a few notches, sending dark buzzing synths soaring against flamenco-tinged guitars as Da Davo’s delay-drenched yelp echoes out over the propulsive electronics, in a collision that’s half stripped-down electro, half cowboy-tinged post-punk.
On the flip, ‘The Fashion Party’ offers up the second of The Neon Judgement’s biggest hits as punching electro dancefloor rhythms power beneath vaguely paranoiac minor-key synths, buzzing overdriven keys and Da Davo’s coldly spoken vocals – indeed, you can pretty much hear the duo laying down the basic template that hundreds of subsequent EBM / electro-industrial bands would later follow.
Finally, ‘1 Jump Ahead’ closes this EP with a thundering crash through blaring off-key synths, skittering drum machines and fuzzed out guitar riffage that’s easily this EP’s most gritty moment, Da Davo’s delayed-out yelps highlighting some of the biggest Alan Vega comparisons to be found here. Another classy reissue from Dark Entries that offers up one of the biggest early highlights of The Neon Judgement’s discography, complete with a fantastic remastering job.