After releasing a solo record under the name Liberation and one under his own in 2016, the prolific David West kept at it in early 2017 with Rat Columns' second album, Candle Power. The band is an outlet for West's poppiest songs and sounds, and the album contains more jangling guitars, chiming bells, and sweet male/female vocals than a Sarah Records band worth their bowl cut could've mustered. The first two tracks would be considered classics if they had been released as a double A-side single by that label back in 1989; now it's just some first-class guitar pop that will probably be overlooked. The rest of the album continues down the path to indie pop greatness, with Amber Gempton's vocals providing some honey to go with West's gruff whispers, and the band whipping up a gentle storm of melody and spiky sweetness. Along with a couple more uptempo janglers that form the core of the record, there's a nicely loping ballad, "You Don't Have to Try," that shows off the duo's lovely singing, and a sophisticated pop detour that sounds like a suburban Prefab Sprout ("Time's No Vessel"). Along with these different shades of indie pop, the album detours into some weirder territory now and then. "Blinded by the Shadow" has some wonky synth bass and a slinky beat, coming off like a mix of West's solo work and the creepy synth pop of Liberation; "Candle Power II" is a wobbly, arty, disco instrumental, and the shimmering disco pop track "Dream Tonight" sounds like something the Field Mice might have come up with if they'd ever been able to have any fun. Candle Power won't make anyone forget the Orchids or cause anyone to toss out their Razorcuts badges, but it is a smart, tricky, and fun addition to the indie pop canon, and anyone who likes the bands mentioned above really ought to give it a chance.
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AllMusic Review by Tim Sendra