“Happy Pills” being one of the most underrated and impassioned albums of the 1990s, and “Lucy” a bona-fide cult classic, CANDLEBOX deserves its place in hard rock history. As FM has all but run a stake through the once supple heart of the band’s breakout single, “Far Behind”, CANDLEBOX has become a band surviving on Gen Y nostalgia. With the departure of drummer Scott Mercado and guitarist Peter Klett, as well as a new label deal with Pavement Entertainment, vocalist Kevin Martin (the lone remnant from the early years) saw an opportunity to shake things up, to paraphrase. CANDLEBOX‘s sixth album, “Disappearing in Airports”, is a stunner, and not always for the right reasons. Call it evolution if you want to dress it that way. The bottom line here is that CANDLEBOX is looking for another path back into mainstream favor, even if that means lightening the load and embracing pop.
The light and breezy alt-pop swishes on “Only Because of You” are barely rock. While the song demonstrates maturity, the tendency to liken “Only Because of You” to COLDPLAY will be inevitable. Consider it fair warning from this point. “Vexatious” thereafter increases the guitars a bit and drops a step-jive rhythm. The song leads into sugary choruses, which haunt more than echo, as CANDLEBOX attempts to fling some meat into the song’s scraggly breakdown. Next, taking a page from U2‘s more recent dallies, “Supernova” (and later, “Crazy”) is a flirty dance rock number that kinda sorta works. These songs will take a huge adjustment in expectations from fans if you’ve been listening to CANDLEBOX since the self-titled album and “Lucy” days. For certain, it’s a one-eighty sway from the jubilant angst of “Happy Pills”.
The slow and pop-slavered “I’ve Got a Gun” is to be considered the make or break point for listeners as to whether they buy into CANDLEBOX‘s less aggressive new order. Inherently, “I’ve Got a Gun” is on the edge with its muse hitting a shatter point, yet whether or not people are going to pay attention to the lore behind the honeyed skulk remains to be seen. For certain, shock and recovery at the diluted vibe of the song comes into play, where “I’ve Got a Gun”‘s dark subtleties might be missed.
“The Bridge” finally toughens things up, even if CANDLEBOX borrows from the FOO FIGHTERS to catch fire. Encouragingly, the riffs are king on this cut, and Kevin Martin turns his inner tiger, otherwise restrained most of the album, loose while the song maintains a melodious hum. Mike Leslie and Brian Quinn are likewise allowed to tear into the solo sections and “The Bridge” delivers a monster payout. “Spotlights” feels like the CANDLEBOX fans are used to. The band reserves its full fang for the bouncing and profane “God’s Gift”, which tells the tale of two CANDLEBOX bands elbowing for recognition within one album. You be the judge if it’s a crafty maneuver or frustrating to inhale.
Whether the audience coming to “Disappearing in Airports” has showed up to the gigs for years if only for the chance to wail “Far Behind” and “You” behind a longneck or it’s a younger generation seeking out the history, this album is going to be a challenge. As master songwriters, there’s a certain logic to turning down the ovens some, but the question mark glares whether CANDLEBOX fans are going to accept what’s being fed here. “Disappearing in Airports” is rear-loaded, including a fuzz-stomping digital version bonus track, “Keep on Waiting”, as bait for hanging through some perplexing softies. Some terrific playing on its side, this whole moderated ploy is a curious move in an effort to stay relevant, to say the least.