[Italians Do It Better; 2007]
The dirty little secret of this year's excellent After Dark compilation is that its flagship act, Glass Candy, kinda sorta got shown up. The duo of Johnny Jewel and Ida No still seems earmarked for (relative) stardom, but their Italians Do It Better labelmates carried them on the imprint's coming-out party. Of course, judging Glass Candy on just four singles/outtakes-- three of which were covers-- is unfair, especially considering that Johnny Jewel also does time with The Chromatics and Farah, two of the compilation's standout artists. In his review of the record, Marc Hogan suggested that a fair amount of reverence for their source material might've been at play in Glass Candy's timorous After Dark contributions, which would explain the chasm between those tracks and the more adrenaline-jacked B/E/A/T/B/O/X.
A fall tour exclusive (currently available in limited quantities through the Troubleman Unlimited website), B/E/A/T/B/O/X is hardly a stopgap. Including robust re-recordings of After Dark's "Rolling Down the Hills" and Kraftwerk cover "Computer Love", the disc's nine tracks collectively offer more than 40 minutes of exclusive material. And while it's possible that some of these tracks might be slated for an upcoming full-length, B/E/A/T/B/O/X marks a premature reward of Glass Candy's accruing buzz.
It's useless to try and bullshit you into believing that the stylized no-wave of Glass Candy's 2003 debut, Love Love Love, has anything more than a perfunctory effect on the band's current sound, but B/E/A/T/B/O/X does suggest a carryover of certain values: a terse, unflinching attitude and an economy of arrangement, if not track length. Like Alison Goldfrapp, Ida No retains an empowering lack of self-consciousness even as she deploys the tact and patience of a pop singer. Jewel, meanwhile, places No's instincts in measured relief; tracks boil over with bass sequencers and 4/4 kicks. One stray synth is permitted a melody line, and the ratio of treble to bass is inverted only occasionally. No isn't sexless or prude, though the echo on her voice suggests that you need not apply. Her star is born through physical inaccessibility and the fact that she's better friends with the DJ than you; it's enough.
This is a joint effort, though. "Candy Castle" features a Mannie Fresh-like synth-trumpet compounded by lusty runs on Jewel's sequencer and No's abstract lyrics, which in turn are augmented by wordless sighs draped in reverb. "Life After Sundown" begins as a tribute to the linear electro vibe of Italo-disco forbears but slowly falls into orbit around No's indistinguishable refrain. Instrumental "Last Nite I Met a Costume" seems born of austere, alien reel-to-reel video and it sets the table for closer "Digital Veriscolor", a tour de force of kraut-inspired groovemaking and hissed coos.
B/E/A/T/B/O/X is a primer, to be sure, but it's a strong one beset with an LP's length and signifiers (an intro, strong sequencing, the penultimate instrumental). Glass Candy's previous false starts can now be dismissed as pulled punches, or a band in its genesis; either way, this record marks a flat-out improvement. B/E/A/T/B/O/X informally dashes Glass Candy as "OMG punks w/ synths" and officially announces Glass Candy: aggressive, formidable beat-mongerers.
-Andrew Gaerig, December 03, 2007