Bowery Electric Lushlife


The title of Bowery Electric inevitably harkens back to John Coltrane’s standard reading of the classic Billy Strayhorn ballad, and you can’t do much better than that. However, it would appear that the duo of Martha Schwendener and Lawrence Chandler had one of the more commercially viable offshoots in electronic music in mind when they titled the album  namely, the lush backdrop of keyboard and synth sounds, an atmosphere of melancholy and vague intrigue and breathy female vocals. It’s a formula that Portishead invested with nearly heart-rending grandeur, that has stood groups like Hooverphonic in good stead and that Bows reinvented brilliantly with Blush, one of last year’s most criminally neglected albums. It sounds like Bowery Electric are forcing it, though, when they take on that sound. Schwendener has a pretty good voice for atmospherics, but she’s no torch singer and carrying a song is a burden she’s not up to. On their previous two albums, both very good, Bowery Electric were at their best matching up overdriven guitars and wide washes of sound with ambient dub beats. It recalled My Bloody Valentine if they ever got around to it, but even on Lushlife, when they wind out a groove, it lacks the raw force of its predecessors, sounding looped out of lack of interest in actually playing. Tight focus and songwriting have never been their forte, so maybe it’s time to go with some counter-intuitive advice and become more unfocused and let the songs bring themselves into being instead of trying to force a structure on them. Bring back the noise, too. (Beggars Banquet)