After a four-year break, alt-rock act Candlebox is back.
A brief history lesson for those of you who came in late. The Seattle-based band hit the jackpot in 1993, with their self-titled debut album, released on Madonna’s record label Maverick, which promptly sold over four million copies and produced such radio-friendly post-grunge unit-shifters as “Far Behind” and “Simple Lessons.” But the follow-ups didn’t fare as well and the band split up in 2000. There have been reunions off and on since 2006, and the release of three more albums, including this one. Vocalist/songwriter Kevin Martin is the sole original member, though drummer Dave Krusen (a Pearl Jam vet) was in the band from 1997 to 1999, and has returned to the fold.
The band, or, perhaps more accurately, Kevin Martin, who wrote all the lyrics, is in a more thoughtful mood on this release. “Vexatious” is a mournful look at those who get caught up in the social media whirl at the expense of real life, low key during the verses and vaulting ahead on the chorus. The raging “I’ve Got a Gun,” about the insanity of America’s gun culture, burns with righteous fury. “Alive at Last” contemplates mortality against a power ballad setting.
It’s not all “heavy.” “God’s Gift,” the press release tells us, is a swipe at Kanye West. “When does someone say, ‘You actually aren’t that good?’” Martin is quoted as saying in the release. “Somehow the world just seems to keep blowing smoke up his ass.” Now, those are words worth preserving!
Gotta say it, though; to these ears, Candlebox’s music, tightly crafted and energetic as it is, has always sounded somewhat generic, with just not quite enough to distinguish themselves from the rest of the pack. But if all you know about the band is their ’90s work, or the “best of” compilation, it’s worth giving this new one a spin.