September 17, 2008

CD Review: Candlebox - Into the Sun

Way back in 1994 Madonna was getting into the record label biz, having just started up Maverick Records. One of the first bands she brings under the banner is up and coming Seattle act Candlebox. Sounds like the perfect match, right? A pop superstar and a grunge act? All right, I'll buy that, I mean it's not like she was producing them or anything. Anyway, the band went on to become the first successful act for the label on their way to the top of the radio pile behind the son "Far Behind." I liked the band, and I liked that self-titled debut, but I did find I tired of them in a rather short period of time. They struck me as one of those bands that rode the coattails of grunge by making it a bit more accessible and radio-friendly. Now, here we are fourteen years removed from that auspicious debut and ten years from any new material and the 'box is back with a brand new album.

The album is called Into the Sun and it picks up right where they left off a decade ago. I type that in the most literal sense of the words. Actually, I take that back, I have only a passing relationship with their second and third releases, it is so slight that I cannot recall any of the songs. I feel it would be accurate, perhaps more so, to say this album picks up right where they left off with their debut. It is so reminiscent of that first album as to be nearly indistinguishable at moments. I seriously had to do a double-take when I first pressed play. Those notes that opened "Stand" sounded so dang familiar, as if I had heard them before. I cannot say they definitely used those notes on Candlebox, but it is enough to make you wonder if you put the right disk in.

Listening to Into the Sun is an interesting thing. On one hand, the band knows how to write a slick, radio-friendly tune whose melody can dig itself into your head and take up semi-permanent residence. All of the songs on the album have that certain sound that distinguishes it as a Candlebox creation, while also being slightly nondescript enough to allow it to blend in with whatever is playing on the local rock station.

While all of that is going on, the music fits like a glove. The album is nothing if not solid, and while they should get some credit for that, they should also take the criticism for the same reason. I admit that not every album has to be groundbreaking and not every artist has to push the boundaries of their genre. What I do like to see is some level of growth, something I cannot say that I see that here. The if nothing else, the overall quality of songwriting has slightly regressed, as evidenced by their apparent need for a "Parental Advisory" label through the stacking of F-bombs in the first couple of songs.

Bottomline. All things considered Into the Sun leaves me torn, as you can probably tell. It is very easy to listen to, but there is nothing particularly special about it. I like it and I don't care about it at the same time. If you like them, you will likely enjoy the album, however, if you are not a fan this will not likely win you over.

Mildly Recommended.


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