Glass Candy

B/E/A/T/B/O/X

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A freewheeling electronic pop album that's goofy and glamorous in roughly equal measure, B/E/A/T/B/O/X is Glass Candy's first full-length as a duo, following an electro-disco makeover that has effectively cut the rock out of the group's dancepunk/no wave equation, and their first album for the disco-revivalist label Italians Do It Better. Markedly lighter and more colorful than the label's prevailing aesthetic as presented on the widely championed After Dark compilation, it plays to some extent like the daylit flip side of Chromatics' dark, atmospheric Night Drive, which was released around the same time and likewise produced by shared member (and Italians driving force) Johnny Jewel. Though it still projects a strong sense of decadence and a distinct air of the unattainable, B/E/A/T/B/O/X is earthier and more inviting than most of the label's output to date -- significantly, this is unquestionably music for dancing, as opposed to dance music that's probably a bit too cool to actually dance to. Kicking off with an aerobics instructor's spoken invocation to the DJ and "the heavenly beat," just about every track here is aimed squarely at the dancefloor (save for the brooding, beatless instrumental "Last Nite I Met a Costume," which would have sounded more at home on Night Drive). The duo's so-retro-it's-modern sound points, no surprises here, straight back to the early '80s, recalling not so much the robotic Italo disco with which the label is often linked (though there are traces of it, particularly on the cosmic strut "Life After Sundown") as plain old regular disco, the kind that at some point evolved out of funk (check out those full-blooded horn parts, synthesized though they may be, on "Candy Castle" and the punchy "Rolling Down the Hills") and went on to inspire the new wave art-punk likes of Blondie and Tom Tom Club (both palpable influences here: Debbie Harry, and perhaps "Rapture" in particular, are unmistakable in Ida No's slightly kooky, slightly chilly delivery). But that's not to suggest that this is straightforward stylistic revivalism -- for one thing, although 4/4 thumps carry Glass Candy through a sizable chunk of the album, the duo also ventures freely beyond the well-established neo-disco template on the weird, stuttering "Etheric Device"; scintillating, silky-smooth Kraftwerk cover "Computer Love" (a clear highlight); and sparse, throbbing, nearly industrial closer, "Digital Versicolor." There's nothing here that feels like a mere genre exercise, and for all its readily evident signifiers, there's ultimately not much to which it can sustain particularly close comparisons. B/E/A/T/B/O/X may be unabashedly a triumph of style over substance, but Glass Candy have at least managed to concoct a familiar-seeming, versatile, and enjoyable style, or set of styles, that's more or less all their own.

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