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  Bowery Electric  
  Beggars Banquet  
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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 album.

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 to date.

You know which end of the spectrum you fall into. Consider accordingly.

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