(As published in the Illinois Entertainer ... )
Candlebox has the dubious distinction of representing both the "Seattle sound" and Madonna's dud-prone Maverick Records at a time when public interest in both appears to have peaked. With this in mind, the quartet's strict adherence to the rudimental formalities of blues metal has an air of nobility, of refusing to jump from a sinking ship. But since nothing weights music down like "nobility" (cf. Sting), its hardly a reason to listen.
Apparently incapable of dreaming up or ripping off an actual melody or hook, these rookies bludgeon the two or three riffs and tempos they do know as if, through sheer force, they could generate the spark that will set their career ablaze. They can't and they don't. Not that they don't bludgeon well, but little here will change the minds of cynics who believe that Ms. Ciccone started her label as a tax write-off first and a fun factory second. 3
If someone hadn't decided to include a photo of Candlebox inside Lucy's cover--a photo that proves the foursome's taste in grungewear is as dull as their taste in melodies--you'd swear, on the basis of the "music" contained within, that the lads must be testosterone-crazed pec-flexers of the first order, so mightily do they bash out the only two chords they know, so jugular-burstingly does Kevin Martin shout his anthems of anomie. "You want to scream," he screams in "Simple Lessons," eerily predicting with an accuracy worthy of Nostrdamus the reaction of any sane person to this album.
Those keen on technicalities could argue that not all of these songs have only two chords, and they'd be right: "It's Amazing" has only one. For that matter, the awkwardly titled "Vulgar Before Me" seems to have all of two-and-a-half. Candlebox fans could also argue that a group's knowing only two chords doesn't necessarily preclude its using them creatively. After all, Peter Klett can even play the chords fast on one song ("Best Friend)," slowly on another ("Butterfly"), and then reverse the chords and play them fast ("Bothered") and slowly ("Butterfly Reprise") again. Heck, he'll even play them mid-tempo ("Drowned," the title cut)!
Actually, "Best Friend" is fairly decent as two-and-a-half-chord rave-ups go. But let's cut to the chase: In the two years since it received a score of three from me in these very pages, Candlebox's debut has sold three million copies. Do you think Maverick/Warner Bros. will blame me if Lucy only goes double platinum? 2