On Second Listen: Glass Candy – B/E/A/T/B/O/X

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B/E/A/T/B/O/X by Portland’s Glass Candy is not only a more dancey direction for the group and a more widely available album, but this is the album you play if you have never heard of the band and if you have, this is the album you lend to your friends.

Combining a bunch of influences such as Kraftwerk, Roxy Music, underground disco hits, punk, and No Wave, Glass Candy has been around for over a decade in some form and have changed and transformed along the way. For those uninformed, Glass Candy is the work of one duo, lead singer Ida No and Johnny Jewel, who are the two constants keeping the band on track. B/E/A/T/B/O/X is their latest album. Released on tour in 2007 and still being discovered all over the world currently, the group’s sophomoric effort contains sounds and ideas of dance. And while definitely sounding close to a lot of music released in the 1980s, these aren’t throwback retro sounding tracks. Glass Candy sounds like what music should sound like in the future, and as much as we might hate to say it, the 2000’s were once viewed as the future.

The first track on the album is of course the “Introduction”, and it is just that. It follows Ida No leading a group of exercising ladies as they discuss their bodies, rhythm and eventually the ladies give some very wise words at the end of the track. A completely new track, “Beatific” is one of the poppiest songs the band has ever released, but with a band like this, the hand claps and dance beats don’t signal anything bad, they’re just a reminder of how hypnotic those sounds can be.

“Etheric Device”, found here in its final version (hopefully), is a song Glass Candy has reworked on both their Music Dream and 2112 tour albums. Let this be known, this version is the ultimate version. The beats are reminiscent of something you might hear while playing some sort of bizarre game of Hopscotch, and the vocal delivery by Ida No is softer and more gentle. Plus anytime “etheric” can be used in a song title, you can breathe easier at night.

“Candy Castle” is one of the better “disco” songs on the album. It’s multi layered and the pseudo-horn section found throughout the song is a definite acknowledgment to all the ’80s songs that featured a similar sound. “Rolling Down the Hills” is flat out the most fun song on the album. With a crackly vinyl opening and even a count off from No, the song again uses horns, but the piano flourishes in various parts of the song are either meant to make you smile or swoon. Whatever the case, both are good outcomes.

“Life After Sundown” is a dark contrast to the previous tracks and like few songs out there, the song actually evokes the dark mood of the title. It has a nearly minute and a half instrumental opening and when Ida No’s voice comes in, the layered conga and disco beats begin and anyone who doesn’t like bongos better exit the ride now because Johnny Jewel uses them to perfection for most of the song.

The second best version or use of “Computer Love” ever appears next on the album. The original by Kraftwerk is amazing and the definitive version but Glass Candy has completely made the song fresh again. Do yourself a favor and listen to the original and then listen to this version. Glass Candy has made a 20 year old song completely relevant again with its reworking. Even people who don’t like covers can find something in this song because of its obvious love of the original but addition of something new.

“Last Night I Met a Costume” is a haunting instrumental track and belongs on a movie soundtrack somewhere, which might bring to mind Vangelis or Tangerine Dream, who would both be proud of the song. Let’s leave it at that. “Digital Versicolor” is the ending song on B/E/A/T/B/O/X and deserving of some respect. The lyrics deal entirely with colors and are written as if someone is showing colors to you for the first time. Musically, the song is extremely minimal and while it isn’t entirely accessible, it’s quite impressive, especially when Ida No’s singing goes from soft sultry to almost spoken word.

Overall, B/E/A/T/B/O/X is an album that isn’t going to get a lot of press or publicity due to the fact that it is on a very independent label. But when people around the world are clamoring for a band from Portland to play where they live, something important is happening. Various music websites and reviewers have started to discover this band recently due to their constant transforming and refining of their sound. Johnny Jewel is a seemingly self made music mogul with numerous bands and groups working with him, but Glass Candy seems to remain his first love. This album is their finest work to date and that is a good thing when you have been around for practically a decade.

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