Bowery electric, as a band, have evolved significantly during
the course of their brief career:
On their first release they were a three piece band -- guitar,
bass, drums, and vocals. The end product during this period
was pretty good droning rock.
On their second album, they had lost the drummer, and rather
than replace him, guitarist Lawrence Chandler programmed drum
parts to go behind their drones. One gets the sense that Mr.
Chandler neither really knew what he was doing, nor was he
very confident in it. The result was 1996's Beat,
a wonderful album of washed out drones over light beats buried
well down in the mix.
By the time it came to release this, their third full-length,
Mr. Chandler has gotten his footing as an "electronica"
artist. He is obviously more proficient at DJ-ing, and he
is sure of himself.
The result is both good and bad. The good news is that Bowery
Electric have completed their transition into a TripHop band.
Beats, vocals, and drones -- that pretty much sums up the new
The bad news is that Bowery Electric now sound very much like
all of the other TripHop bands on the market (Lamb, Portishead,
Hooverphonic, etc.). On Beat the drums were lazy,
quiet, and subdued. Vocalist Martha Scwendener's singing was
quiet and buried in the general swirling mix of the songs.
On Lushlife, the DJ-ed drums dominate quite frequently,
and Ms. Schwendener has taken to affecting the bored, listless
tones that so many other female singers in TripHop bands affect.
Why is that? Is it because the female singer is mere accompaniment
to the DJ-ing, and this bores them? I'm not sure, but if you
listen to enough of this genre you will surely notice it.
At any rate, it's kind of a moot point, since she does not
even sing on several of the albums tracks. Those vocal-free
tracks now pretty much blend into the general "drum and
bass" sound that seems to typify British electronica these
days. I don't think that Bowery Electric's take on the sound
is a particularly bad one, nor is it a particularly good one.
It just sounds like the rest of "that stuff".
However, i must tell you that i am disappointed in this release.
Beat had a remarkable and fresh sound. Lushlife
is unremarkable. What the heck happened? Is it that Mr. Chandler's
new-found proficiency as a DJ turned the band down the well-trod
path of British Techno? If so, then i wish that he had never
learned how to really use that instrument, and had instead remained
an amateur. This reminds of something Andy Warhol once said,
as quoted by John Cale on the album Songs for Drella:
I think sometimes it hurts you
When you've stayed too long in School.
I think sometimes it hurts you
When you're afraid to be called a fool.
Mr. Chandler wants to show that, yes, he is a real DJ
now, like Photek, or Goldie, or Paul Oakenfield, or whoever
the Hot Young Star in the UK is right now.
My question is: So you can DJ. Great. What happened to the
drones? Why does the DJ-ing now dominate?
It's not a bad album. But the technical proficiency now displayed
loses some kind of freshness. And in the end, that
is kind of disappointing.
However, despite my disappointment i must admit that this album
is at least as good as the last Lamb or Hooverphonic albums.
It's decent TripHop. Unremarkable, but it doesn't suck. People
who do not have a familiarity with Bowery Electric's earlier
work, but who like TripHop, will quite likely find this album
very entertaining. The general buzz on the internet from their
older fans is that this album is their weakest and most boring
You know which end of the spectrum you fall into. Consider