“Neon Apocalypse” was initially released in 2001 after two-and-a-half years of preparation, and has now been remixed, remastered and reissued in 2016 with all the digital tools at hand. You certainly can’t say that Ender Bowen is not a persistent and enduring artist. At the time, the album was originally devised as a concept album, explained Ender – “The main character goes out into the world to change it, falls in love, and is nearly destroyed by the power of that love – Idealized teenage romanticism, really.” Concept album or not, the whole thing flows cohesively with thick, luscious melodies, soaring choruses and solidly layered guitar-driven soundscapes.
The descending chord sequences, the crystal clear production, the sublime electric guitar tones, the rhythms and the emotive vocals all hit the mark for me. This is such a well-arranged, well-written and deceptively simple album, and so impeccably performed, that comparisons to rock legends like Tom Petty and George Harrison are inevitable on some tracks.
The back to back “Weak” (Harrison-like) and “Julia” (Petty-like) are examples that promptly come to mind. But all-round “Neon Apocalypse” is stuffed with big jangly melodies that recall the best of retro-rock, and you’ll quickly find your own similarities.
That’s not to say that this album is a derivative work. It’s just an indication of Bowen’s attention to the qualities that once made this genre standout proudly – strong melodies, harmony, great song structure, and lyrics that actually tell stories with meaning.
The album is completely wonderful. Just crank it up and begin your toad trip with this one. It ranges from classic, to alternative and arena rock. The songs that impressed me the most, actually start from the back-end of the recording, with the dreamy “The Ring Of Love”, the crunching rock guitar sounds of “Torture”, and of course, “Julia” and “Weak”.
But seriously there’s plenty to like here if you have a penchant for melodic alternative rock. How could you not nod your head and sing-along to “I Could’ve Lost You” or go weak at the knee to “ElevenThree”.
Fifteen years down the line, you can’t deny the guy his songwriting cred as he seemed capable of spitting out quality songs in his sleep at the time. And “Neon Apocalypse” serves as a reminder to his considerable talent and penchant for heart on the sleeve expressionism, which has all but fallen along the wayside.
Ender Bowen is a rarity in today’s world of bland radio-friendly popular music. I would be most keen to hear some new material, just to gauge how far he has been able to grow his already immense songwriting talents.
MORE ABOUT: Ender Bowen is a singer-songwriter and producer from Nashville, TN, who has released 3 albums, several Singles and EPs, and a compilation album of his music. Starting out as a drummer, Ender switched to learning and playing the guitar as he wanted to be more involved in the songwriting process. “I blend the soaring, big sounds of U2 with the heavier eclecticism of The Smashing Pumpkins, and a dash of electronica thrown in,” says Ender. “Drawing from literary influences such as C.S. Lewis as well as my own two-decades-long journey,” he continues, “I find my music to be easily accessible to people trying to sort out their own destiny and purpose.”