Lowen & Navarro

Scratch at the Door

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Well into the second decade of their writing/performing partnership, Lowen & Navarro remain a work in progress, and one that, by the evidence of their fourth studio album, Scratch at the Door, is becoming frustrated. Eric Lowen and Dan Navarro first made their mark as songwriters, achieving what remains of their career high point when Pat Benatar took their composition "We Belong" into the Top Five of the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1985. In 1990, they made their recording debut as performers with Walking on a Wire, released on the start-up label Chameleon Records, which quickly went belly up. Three years later, they were on Parachute Records, an adult pop-oriented imprint of major-label Mercury/PolyGram that issued their second and third LPs, Broken Moon and Pendulum, before it too sank. In 1997, the Georgia-based independent Intersound released the archival Live Wire, a recording of their breakout performance at Club Lingerie in Los Angeles in 1989, and they have stuck with Intersound for Scratch at the Door. Like Pendulum, which de-emphasized their early, folk-pop sound of chiming acoustic guitars and sweet, two-part harmonies in favor of a more blues-rock approach (with Navarro even playing some slide guitar), Scratch at the Door, largely produced by the duo themselves, displays more punch than early fans might associate with Lowen & Navarro. They haven't abandoned the acoustic guitars or the harmonies, by any means, but it is not unusual for a song to be carried largely by Navarro's gruff singing or Lowen's light tenor, with the two only joining vocally on the chorus. As songwriters, sharing credits on nearly every song, however, they have a single vision, and the lyrics demonstrate it as an embattled one. They are most specific on the lead-off track, "When the Lights Go Down," in which the song's first-person narrator lays out his problems. Basically, he's middle-aged and not as successful as he would like to be. "Seems like every car on the road/Is newer and cleaner and faster," he laments, which, of course, is a real problem, especially in L.A. And it's not just that. He smokes, he drinks, he's married with a child, and he can't pay his mortgage. Lowen & Navarro write in more general terms on the rest of the album, but in song after song, there's an "I" character for whom things have not been going well, and while he often tries to re-commit himself, he is acutely aware of time going by; there are even intimations of suicidal feelings. It's hard not to read the duo's own career challenges into this scenario, even if they no doubt also speak to a constituency that, like them, is aging, has adult responsibilities, and is trying to hold onto its dreams. Such an audience may not find escape by listening to Lowen & Navarro, but they may be reassured to hear that they're not alone.

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