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Gaining Momentum : The Combined Forces of Eric Lowen and Dan Navarro Create an Emotional 'Pendulum'


Eric Lowen and Dan Navarro couldn't have selected a more suitable title for their recently released "Pendulum" album. Like much of the folk-rock duo's work, the material on their third disc explores the dualities of life.

"In essence what we're writing about is life and its joys and frustrations," explained Navarro, who will perform with Lowen tonight at the Galaxy Concert Theatre in Santa Ana.

Their autobiographical songs tend to resonate strongly with fans, who sometimes approach the singers with stories about how certain songs or albums have affected their lives.

Lowen said that one woman told him her fiance had proposed while playing the pair's first album, "Walking on a Wire." She said that 1990 album also helped her cope with his subsequent death, then added that their second album, "Broken Moon," had since become a soundtrack for a rejuvenated life with a new beau.

"We get a lot of [those types of stories]," Navarro said. The music "seems to touch them in a way that makes it very special to them. It's not contrived from the standpoint of, 'Hey, this will really get them [emotionally].' We're just telling stories. If people can see themselves in the stories, then I guess we're doing our jobs OK."

He admonishes listeners against taking the albums' lyrics too seriously.

"It's a pop record. Let's relax and have a beer," he said. But he's also quick to acknowledge that he feels a responsibility to present that are reflective of his own feelings of realism and right and wrong.

Whether they're exploring the tumultuous emotions involved in a romantic breakup (as in the 1993 song "Maybe Later") or the death of a loved one (as in the new "Crossing Over"), L&N songs tend to be introspective and multifaceted examinations of human emotion.

"I wouldn't want to write a song about loving someone and leaving them without pointing out my foibles," said Navarro, who is the cousin of Dave Navarro, the Red Hot Chili Peppers' guitarist. "In other words, I wouldn't want to justify that behavior or [any] destructive behavior."

That attitude created a dilemma of sorts for the singer-songwriter-guitarists when they were recording "The Flesh Is Weak" for "Pendulum."

A first-person song with lyrics by Billy Steinberg, it explores how temptation might undermine a romantic partnership. Lowen, who is married, and Navarro, who was then engaged to be married, worried about how the lyrics might be interpreted.

"We felt uncomfortable about some of the lines because we didn't want people, particularly our mates, to think that we were out there coveting [other people]," Navarro says.

"So we did water down a couple of lines as we were recording it. But in the end we thought we were being cowards," he said. So they went back to the original lyrics. "We realized [that much of the song was about] how you don't have to necessarily go out and cheat on someoneto hurt them."

The emotional highs and lows conveyed by some of the duo's songs might also be used to describe the duo's long-term partnership, which at times has been fragile.

According to both parties, the two took an immediate dislike to each other upon meeting in the early '80s. Both were working at the Great American Food and Beverage Co., a Los Angeles restaurant known for its singing waiters.

But when they discovered how well their voices melded during an impromptu performance at a party, a creative partnership was forged.

Lowen and Navarro's first success came as songwriters. In the mid-'80s, they had songs recorded by a number of disparate but well known pop performers such as David Lee Roth and the Four Tops. Pat Benatar's version of L&N's "We Belong" became a Top 5 U.S. hit in 1984.

Lowen and Navarro's performing career has also been marked by good times and bad. Chameleon Records released their "Walking on a Wire" in 1990 but dissolved soon after.

It took two years to land another recording deal. L&N are now recording for the Parachute/Mercury Records label, which released "Broken Moon" in 1993 and "Pendulum." (The company also re-released "Walking on a Wire" last year.)

Their career has been aided by the new Adult Album Alternative radio format, which began to proliferate several years ago. Some AAA stations, including KSCA-FM (101.9) in Los Angeles, have embraced the pair's relatively warm acoustic sounds.

But Navarro fears that even some of these comparatively eclectic radio stations are beginning to shy away from folk-related acts.

"I read a cover story in Billboard about how acoustic acts are getting left behind by AAA radio because they're starting to emphasize [harder-edged] alternative [music]," Navarro said. "It's hard following any trend or being part of a trend. But history and experience have borne out that [trends] always comes back to us. So I don't get too worried about it. There's still more of an outlet and audience for what we do than ever before." *

Lowen & Navarro play tonight at the Galaxy Concert Theatre, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana. 8 p.m. $10. (714) 957-0600.

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