The Neon Judgement’s “1313” (& “Le Suicide Du Beau Serge”)

It’s 11:11 pm and I’m writing about a song called “1313.” Not sure if there’s any significance there. But I thought it was an interesting juxtaposition.

This one dates all the way back to 1989 from a Belgium new wave industrial act called The Neon Judgement. These guys got a lot of airplay back when I was in college. I was undergoing a rather dense industrial music phase. Most of it was pretty heavy and aggressive, electronics alongside speedy guitars, sometimes sporting a full complement of power tools and coiled springs to generate the mechanized rhythms. Those were the German ones. But there were also a few obscurities hell bent on expanding the genre beyond its metallic clanging borders.

The Neon Judgement’s “1313” is one of those oddities, meshing industrial aesthetics with electro beats, plus a little bit of Old West shitkicker twang and swagger. It was the tail end of the ’80s, so this made a sort of sense. Electronic house and techno were beginning to break big in the U.S. Industrial was at its piston-pounding peak. Not sure how the western motif got in there. But the point is that diverse genres were cohabitating and copulating, producing eclectic offsprings of experimental sound and fury.

An old Play It Again Sam press photo for The Neon Judgement.

I distinctly recall “1313” because of its danceability. It was a funky brand of industrial, propelled by an elastic whip-snap electro rhythm, some ten gallon guitars, chanting howls and hollers, and what was probably the equivalent of Belgium rap, but stripped down to monotone and megaphone … the bullhorn, that is. I can totally imagine this in an electro house set, just as I can picture it used for fucked-up line or square dancing at some bondage or industrial club … and no, I didn’t make that up.

“1313” comes from the album “Blood & Thunder,” which features cover art photos of Terlingua, Texas, from legendary filmmaker Wim Wenders. It also features another song I love from the era, “Le Suicide Du Beau Serge.” That one’s totally different, more atmospheric and moody, and steeped in a softly rolling electronic rhythm that’s less funky and more progressively driven. Keep in mind this is still 1989, and the progressive electro house and techno movements had yet to happen.

“Le Suicide Du Beau Serge” still wears the cowboy vibe, as well as its trade-roots industrial aura. But to me, this one also feels like it’s part of the French new wave movement. I know, that’s seemingly non sequitur. But I think it’s inspired by a film from 1958 called “Le Beau Serge,” hence the French angle. I can’t confirm that, though. But if you give it a listen, the Nouvelle Vague motif makes all kinds of sense.

I’m not sure what happened to The Neon Judgement in the years since. I heard they were active until 2012, which counts me curious as to their evolution. Because in their time, they were slightly ahead of the industrial electronic curve. Anyway, here’s both tracks, “1313” and “Le Suicide Du Beau Serge.” Give ’em a listen and see what you think.

“1313” from the 1989 album “Blood & Thunder.”

“Le Suicide Du Beau Serge” from the 1989 album “Blood & Thunder.”