My first album, Neon Apocalypse, was released on November 13, 2001, while I was a senior in college at St. Lawrence University in Canton, NY. By the time it had come out, I had spent two-and-a-half years on it. It was primarily made up of songs I'd written between the ages of 16-19 (1996-1999), and was recorded mostly in the music lab at the University (though some of it was done in my various dorm rooms in Sykes Hall). It was originally going to be called Lemonymous, (an offshoot of the song "Lemon Tea"), but I panicked that that title was too weird and went with the current title. It was originally devised as a concept album - 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.
To date, I still love most of the work on this album, and I'm excited to be able to present it in a remixed and remastered format - from the early days of mp3.com to today's digital music platforms... quite an evolution indeed!
Release Date: November 13, 2001 | Reissue Date: November 18, 2016
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.
By Buddy Nelson (Original URL) Published October 30, 2016
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.”
Ender Bowen’s album “Neon Apocalypse” is high quality alternative recording, memorable, lush, addictive, powerful, with anthems and soaring choruses that can shake mountains and swing from the rafters. The writing is superb and the music is full and vibrant.
I suppose it does have a retro vibe, but it’s so much better than that. Bowen delivers passionate, emotional vocals that will send chills up your spine. This album showcases that Ender is more than just a rock fused musician and displays him to be a true believer of melody and harmony infused into his crunchy guitar riffing.
“Neon Apocalypse” showcases Ender Bowen as a headliner, an artist that dominates the tunes. The songs are well produced, but at the same time seem so minimal in a sense. It makes for great, feel good music. The lyrics have always been a strong point for Bowen when he creates and it shows here as well.
These 10 songs are full of emotions. That’s what makes his music so special and memorable. He pours his heart and soul into every track. Everything he sings is sincere and real – from the bouncy opener “Echo Papa”, to the cinematic “ElevenThree”, the acoustic guitar-driven “Valentine”, on to the rocker “Weak”, and the jangly guitar rhythms of “Julia”, the electro-bass pump of “Dogtown”, to what is for me the best track on the album, the riff-ridden “Torture”.
In light of all the hollow songwriting out there, it’s a fresh breath of air to hear something like this recording. With his own distinct sound, Ender Bowen evokes the spirit of the 80s and 90s, but somehow with more weight and meaning. Bowen is in full-blown alternative mode here and it fits like a glove.
There’s not a single track that feels out of place or unfinished. It’s something you can listen to straight through without your attention drifting or feeling the urge to skip. In an age of looped beats and inane lyrics, “Neon Apocalypse” is a promise that modern music can mix electronic and electric elements and doesn’t have to be mindless drivel enslaved to the party or pop culture to be entertaining.
From start to finish, this album finds Ender Bowen sharpening his alternative rock skills and molding his influences into a sound that is his own.
By Chris Brock (Original URL) Published November 9, 2016
A Russell native, now living in Nashville, has gone back to the drawing and mixing board to give new life to an album he released in 2001 while a senior at St. Lawrence University, Canton.
“Neon Apocalypse” was Ender Bowen’s first album, which was the result of 2½ years of work. It was mainly recorded in the music lab at SLU, and made up of songs he wrote between the ages of 16 and 19.
Ender Bowen, the stage name of Joel D. VanBrocklin, graduated in 1998 from Edwards-Knox Central School, where he was a member of the concert, jazz and marching bands. He graduated in 2002 from SLU with a bachelor of arts degree in music. He is the son of Vickie Strate of Russell and Larry VanBrocklin of Hendersonville, Tenn.
Mr. Bowen works freelance in the video production industry in the Nashville area. He recently finished editing a feature documentary on Kentucky bourbon which he said should be featured in some film festivals next year.
He’s no stranger to releasing old work as new and improved. Last year, Mr. Bowen, 36, reissued his third album, “Lemonymous” following a crowd-sourcing funding campaign. It contained the iTunes “instant gratification” track, “So Can’t I.”
Mr. Bowen, who started out as a drummer, performs solo on his albums. He plays several instruments. On “Neon Apocalypse,” his guitar, bass and keyboard work are prominent.
He describes his music as similar to the soaring, big sounds of U2 mixed with the heavier eclecticism of such groups as the Smashing Pumpkins. His music, which ranges from party music to introspective songs, also has elements of electronica. Some of his themes are drawn from literary elements, such as the works of author C.S. Lewis.
Songs on “Neon Apocalypse” were created as Mr. Bowen attempted to put bands together.
“Those bands never really worked out, so at a certain point I realized that if this was going to happen, I’d have to do it myself,” Mr. Bowen wrote in an email in response to questions.
But as the years passed, his experienced ear didn’t like what he heard on “Neon Apocalypse,” especially when compared to today’s standards of even home-recorded productions. Guitars were wildly out of tune. Vocals needed polishing. The mixing and mastering “wasn’t up to the task of being listenable.”
“If I’m going to have these things available for people to get their hands on and experience I want to make them the best I can within the limitations that came from the original work,” Mr. Bowen wrote.
He added the reissues of the past two years act to further his training, “not just the art of music engineering but also in the art of marketing and promotion” and to get his name out there when he releases new music.
These days, he’s also able to better distribute his original work.
“When these records first came out, the means didn’t really exist to do what you can do with them now, which is to release them on multiple platforms across the globe at a very, very affordable cost,” Mr. Bowen wrote. “Now that I can do that, I want the songs to be worthy of that kind of distribution.”
Funding for his “Lemonymous” album was crowd-sourced. Besides the digital release, there was a CD. “Neon Apocalypse” is a digital release only and wasn’t crowd-sourced.
“I do plan to get it physically released in the near future but for now, in order to ensure it still came out during its 15th anniversary, the digital release was really the only way to go,” Mr. Bowen wrote.
The album is available on iTunes and will be available on all streaming media, such as Amazon, GooglePlay and Spotify on Friday, Nov. 18.
By TunedLoud Staff (Original URL) Published November 16, 2016
“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.
By Charlie Sirotek - Published November 18, 2016
Neon Apocalypse, an album recorded on the St. Lawrence University campus in 2001 by Ender Bowen '02, has some obvious musical influences. One of these is U2, and it is even more similar to The Smashing Pumpkins.
Despite being from 2001, there are multiple points throughout the album where the sound seems older in a good way. I found the songs never stuck to one musical genre. "Lemon Tea" is potentially the album's best example of smooth rock, with an addictive guitar riff and vocals that at times seem like they're speaking to you more than singing. The album's halfway point is marked by an enjoyable acoustic number, with harmonizing vocals and additional layers at every verse. "Valentine" is an interesting track; the lyrics, while a bit sappy, refer to the "get together" phase of a relationship, and it has a sound reminiscent of The Dave Matthews Band.
The album again changes pace with "Weak", a traditional contemporary rock song, while still preserving Ender Bowen's hypnotizing vocals. It has an abrupt but poignant closing track that brings closure to an album with an overarching story of the ups and downs of a relationship. The theme throughout is one of passion.
Many of the lyrics were written back in 1996, and I can't help but think that Neon Apocalypse signals a transition period for music. When I interviewed Ender Bowen a few days ago, he wished the album had been finished sooner; when you spend over two years making an album, songs that initially sound great begin to sound old and repetitive. Neon Apocalypse became somewhat like a "living album" in its final stages, with a lot of re-recording and tweaking. This may explain why one song sounds like '90s rock and another like early 2000's electro.
It's safe to say Bowen is musically versatile and resourceful. To record an album is difficult; to do this while being a full-time college student is a feat. Bowen spent late nights in the music lab or the basement of Griffiths working on his album. He was, no doubt, trying to figure out how to manage the different storage formats he used to record, some songs being on CDs or the now-obsolete DAT.
After a two-and-a-half year process, Bowen's efforts paid off. He recorded a great album and had his song "Weak" played on radio stations in Canton and Ottawa, where it was well received both then and now. I fully recommend Neon Apocalypse, especially if you are a fan of U2 or The Smashing Pumpkins.
Chapter One – Echo Papa He awoke like a siren in the dark // And in looking out the window his heart did pulse // His vision like a mushroom cloud of pain // Not that a voice raised in hushed silence could attention gain // So did he rise // Hurled through the wind // To change all he saw
Chapter Two – Lemon Tea But reality lay beyond wild dreams // Its might too proud // For the one can’t overcome // It is a power beyond imagination // And confusion is masked in dazzling lights // So silenced is he who is tempted by fate // Hope’s door left closed but not forever gone
Chapter Three – ElevenThree Retreat he home // Like November leaves to the Earth // Within himself his spirit kept // A heavy heart and swirling head // Though he in himself a hero saw // Under which God’s creation did defeat // A hero, again, he will see
Chapter Four – I Could’ve Lost You But not such a distance traversed // For she with healing hands of love // Doth mend his wounds and raise his head // Pulse and pound his heart once more // For had he in his mission success // Not she could he have // Through which to find a palace in the clouds
Chapter Five – Valentine And so did sing the birds // Through imagination a-glossed, here became reality // In him a sensation of power renewed // Though through her found his conscience life // All became his as does truth to a god // Aware he not of doors to hope // Nor wary of his senses’ betrayal
Chapter Six – Weak Such power by man held corrupt // For whence love strongest they fell // And weak such force became them // But to save through love made weak all the more // His conscience she fed for the evil he escaped // She in his arms kept // As rain, the palace through clouds falls
Chapter Seven – Julia As a grasp to all man is at sometime lost // She with heavy heart impure of thought // Slipped from the clasp of love // Out of sight // Not out of mind // Like a candle, her love // For to take flight he to a beacon
Chapter Eight – Dogtown So he unto her image passed // Less a lover, more a temptress // For love alone his mind’s eye rests // Though she her lips to another // Wouldst surely a river of these tears overflow // He of pure heart then shattered // In whirlpools of chaos to this sound
Chapter Nine – Torture Thus a bleeding heart unto him born // Left alone he to his guilt // She of newer tastes // Though sweet her voice as poison // The drink of lust and lament // But thirsting all the more // Is the choice of life and death
Chapter Ten – The Ring of Love He like a mountain // Not as slow to rise up // Though forth these chills // Like an echo to a siren for all time // A scar her name unto his soul // These experiences like riches // Through life be attained