15 years ago, Ender Bowen’s alma mater St. Lawrence University published this glowing 4-star review of his debut album Neon Apocalypse, recorded at the University and surrounding areas from 1999-2001. As we prepare for the 15th Anniversary release coming November 18, take a trip to the past with this word-for-word reproduction of the original article.
St. Lawrence Senior Debuts Neon Apocalypse
By Laurie Besanceney (Original URL) Published December 7, 2001 4/5 Stars
You start out your freshman year at St. Lawrence telling yourself, “I really want to accomplish something here – do something that will reflect myself at this particular time in my life when I look back.” Well, hopefully all of us seniors will leave good ole SLU with a job or at least plans for the future but senior Joel VanBrocklin took this idea a little further – he recorded and released on mp3.com a ten track CD that he and many other people will be able to look back on. Neon Apocalypse was, for the most part, created right here at St. Lawrence using merely a computer and a microphone. The results are amazing!
VanBrocklin, who goes by “Ender”, wrote, performed, and recorded Neon Apocalypse by himself. The CD takes into account the many types of music including pop, industrial, alternative, and rock while utilizing the influences of U2, Smashing Pumpkins, Spacehog, Stabbing Westward, Garbage, Republica, INXS, The Verve, Fiona Apple, Sarah McLachlan, Beck and Bjork. The result is a mix of uniquely-sounding songs. Plus, Ender has heartfelt, meaningful lyrics and that never hurts when it is mixed with some good music.
Neon Apocalypse opens with “Echo Papa”, a fast paced beat song with Ender’s distinctive vocals flowing over the song. With the lyrics, “Well I’m ready for the sirens/ready for the rush/ready for the mushroom cloud and now/echo papa/echo papa” this song is about the madness of violence and how we are repeating what has been done before us. This song comes complete with a guitar solo by Grim in the middle of it. I can picture “Echo Papa” as a rocking live song that gets the crowd pumped. It is definitely one of my favorite songs on the CD, and a great opening tune.
Next up is the song “Lemon Tea”, which strikes me as very U2-ish (U2 also has a song titled “Lemon” and during “Lemon Tea”, “Lemon” is repeated again and again). The line that goes “Is it fact or fiction/is love an addiction/is it time that keeps up holding on/to the things we thought long gone” portrays the confusion of life and our questions. To tell you the truth though, I liked the lyrics, but I didn’t really get why “Lemon” was repeated throughout the song. It sounded good though.
“ElevenThree” is a song dedicated to the families, friends, and those loved ones who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, DC on September 11 – the song is hauntingly beautiful. This third song is drastically different from the opening two songs – it is slower; a song to listen to in times of reflection and when one is in a calmer mood. This song sounds like something The Verve would do. “ElevenThree” is about losing someone who is important to you and saying goodbye to them. I can’t single out just one line or the chorus in this song – all the lyrics are just too expressive.
I’m on a roll here going through every song on Neon Apocalypse, but since I wouldn’t have room to do that, we’re going to skip over some tracks. Track six, “Weak”, is another distinctive song – it is very industrial. This is very different from the type of music I really like, but I like this a lot – Ender’s voice carries clearly on top of a static noise and a regular beat. “Julia” truly showcases Ender’s voice; at times it reaches a wispy level much like U2’s Bono. “Dogtown” is another track with a very modern industrial sound to it. Ender’s voice has been electronically altered in this song with impressive results.
Another favorite of mine is “Torture” – I find this one hard to explain though. Yet another song that would just rock live. I can imagine the whole audience pumped and bouncing in unison. The CD slows down and comes to a close with “The Ring of Love”. A beautiful ballad, “With you far away/it’s never enough/the Queen of my heart/the ring of love”.
Neon Apocalypse is extremely impressive. It is impressive because Ender has done something productive with his music major at St. Lawrence – he has created something to show for his time here. This is experimental music that works. Ender’s messages of hope are beautiful, while his songs that rock truly rock. It he keeps on this track he is surely going to go somewhere great.