Specimen's sound was never easy to distill as it had so many facets (thanks to the five inveterate members) which could rear their head at any moment. There was, of course, their one actual major label release in 1983 on Sire which signaled the beginning of the end. There was their reclamation of NYC's Danceteria for one night which plunged the place into equal parts labyrinth and vaudevillian hell. And yes, then there were the songs. The deliciously manic "The Beauty of Poisin", the regimented nihilism of "Dead Man's Autochop" and my personal pick: the sometimes angrily snarled, sometimes just flat out epic "Returning from a Journey".
"Electric Ballroom" contains none of those moments. It is an album which features - as far as I can tell - only one original member (Jon Klein) of Specimen augmented by a number of others who do their utmost to live up to the large, pointy boots they have to fill. There are moments when it comes close, the beautiful "Lilacs" being the prime example. A remix of their seminal club killer "Kiss Kiss Bang Bang" attempts to breathe life into the corpse with original member Johnny Slut remixing it but by the time you get to the end of this album you've had enough. Jon Klein does his utmost to convince you're listening to Specimen but with tracks like "Electric Ballroom" trudging along under a glacial amount of guitar dirge it's a hard pill to swallow. I just cannot get used to this band having a different frontman, sorry, it's not going to work. This album does not feel very spontaneous; instead it is forced, almost obligatory. Ironically, given all the latitude in the world to make something without any pressure from a label or studio, Specimen sound hackneyed. Burnt out.
This was not a wise idea nor was it warranted. I don't want an older, wiser Specimen which is what this album really gives you. I want fearlessness, the kind of which led members of the band way back when to posit this simple question: "Are you man enough to wear make up?"