CANDLEBOX – The Long Goodbye (Album Review)

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30 years to come full circle.

In the days when grunge ruled the airwaves and all roads led to Seattle, the latter-day adherent to the craze known as Candlebox was definitely among the more enigmatic figures to grace the scene. Occasionally dismissed as posers by purists of the day due to their association with Madonna’s Maverick Records (which subsequently became the springboard of artists like Alanis Morissette, Deftones and The Prodigy) and their initially more conservative blend of blues/rock influences relative to the sludgy moroseness of many of the scene’s progenitors, their grunge bona fides were actually well beyond question when considering their Seattle roots and proximity to one of the scene’s founding fathers Andrew Wood of Mother Love Bone fame, to whose memory one of their most iconic anthems “Far Behind” was dedicated. Yet the stylistic evolution that they would undergo following their smash hit of a debut album via sophomore outing “Lucy” would also arguably lay the groundwork for the subsequent post-grunge and broader alternative rock wave that would dominate most of the mid to late 90s. If nothing else, their contribution to the history of contemporary and alternative rock have been highly consequential, and have stuck with them for more than 30 years of career highs and lows.

Though continually dogged by shifting lineups that has found lead vocalist Kevin Martin as the sole original member of the fold, the Candlebox brand has endured into the present day and provided a more open and varied side to the generally insular and rustic character of the Seattle rock scene. As such, the bittersweet eventuality of this particular hard rock trail coming to an end is no less noteworthy, and the musical contents rounding out the duration of this band’s 8th and final studio effort “The Long Goodbye” no less intricate. Joined by longtime bassist Adam Kury and the somewhat more recently acquired guitarists Brian Quinn and Island Styles, alongside drummer BJ Kerwin, Martin has opted to close things out on a decidedly eclectic note that straddles the divide between Candlebox’s past contributions to the grunge and post-grunge scenes alike. The songwriting and overall stylistic flavor that shapes these 12 newly minted anthems largely straddles the divide between the blues/rock driven swagger of the 1993 debut and the varied mixture of influences that followed on 1995’s “Lucy”, with Kevin’s vocal approach coming off as correspondingly forceful yet nuanced, whereas the production work of Don Miggs brings in a decidedly rich and modern approach that takes into account the band’s subsequent past following their 2006 reformation up until now.

“The Long Goodbye” Artwork

When all is said and done, what truly sells this album, regardless of which unique stylistic quirks are employed, is that all involved rock out as loud and proud as possible at every turn. Cranking up the decibels and recalling the punchy simplicity of the old Seattle sound, unapologetic banger and album single “Punks” sets the album on a raucous course, all the while confining the usual themes of rebellion and angst into a highly catchy rock template. The other leadoff single and infectious ode “What Do You Need?” treads a similarly hook-driven path, albeit more indicative of the down tempo bluesy swagger of this outfit’s formative years and with a decidedly soulful guest vocal slot courtesy of Mona front man Nick Brown to complement Kevin Martin’s attitude-laced pipes. Straightforward rock odes like “Elegante” and “Ugly” walk a rather intricate tightrope between their classic and newer sound, the former occasionally mimicking the dynamic range of ’93 hit single “You” while largely sticking to a brighter post-grunge sound, while the latter takes their olden proclivities towards discontent into a modern, upbeat musical place. Even more whimsical sounding modern rockers like “Cellphone Jesus” and the almost emo-driven cruiser “Foxy” hit hard and true, though the most artistically profound moments are reserved for the melancholy balladry of “Maze” and the Beatles-inspired rock mini-epic “Hourglass”.

Nostalgia will likely be the final word in Candlebox’s career given the enormity of their initial rise to success 3 decades ago, but for those who have sloughed it out with this veteran fold in the years since will undoubtedly note that “The Long Goodbye” is less a retread of the past and far more a final hurrah that exists as much in 2023 as it does in any point in the band’s past. One might argue that alongside its immediate predecessor “Wolves” and 2016’s “Disappearing In Airports” that it has far more of an affinity for the current wave of pop rock, but a closer examination reveals a very present musical acknowledgement of where this outfit originally came from, even if Kevin Martin remains the sole person to have been there. In like fashion, it tends to check all of the boxes of what fans new and old are looking for, but it will function more as a solid entry than an astounding musical affair along the lines of the riveting debut or the experimental and potent sophomore release. It’s a fitting final chapter to close out a long and expansive career, but like all endings, comes along with the sad reality that all good things eventually come to an end. Then again, music isn’t something that anyone can just retire from, and if the nearly 30 years of KISS being on their farewell tour is any indication, who knows what the future will actually hold.

Released By: Round Hill Records
Release Date: August 25th, 2023
Genre: Alternative Rock

Musicians:

  • Kevin Martin / Lead vocals
  • Adam Kury / Bass
  • Brian Quinn / Guitar
  • Island Styles / Guitar
  • BJ Kerwin / Drums

“The Log Goodbye” Track-Listing:

  1. What Do You Need
  2. Who You Are
  3. Punks
  4. Elegante
  5. Hourglass
  6. Maze
  7. Ugly
  8. Foxy
  9. Running with the Stars
  10. Nails On a Chalkboard
  11. Cellphone Jesus
  12. I Should Be Happy

Order “The Long Goodbye” HERE.

8.5 Excellent

Roughly 30 years to the day that Seattle-born grunge sensation Candlebox blew up the charts with their blues/rock infused eponymous debut, front man Kevin Martin and his current crop of band mates deliver an eclectic final hurrah of a studio LP worthy of the brand

  • Songwriting 8.5
  • Musicianship 9
  • Originality 8.5
  • Production 8
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