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Spotlight on: Black Candy by Beat Happening

Cover of Black Candy by Beat Happening Beat Happening, Black Candy

I'll vote the third release from K Records' Beat Happening for the Most Appropriate Title Award. The contents are variably dark and sweet, just like the title, Black Candy. Licorice, dark chocolate, whatever your favorite peat sweet, there's definitely something for everyone on this album.

The jangle of "Other Side" starts off the album with a feelgood vibe, including a mention of the children's game Red Rover. It's one of the rare duets with Calvin and Heather both sharing vocal duties. Their voices mesh well together -- why didn't they do this more often? As a duo, they're very persuasive, making "[living] on bread crust and lemon rind" sound like a good thing.

The mood switches gears instantly with the title song, "Black Candy." Bass notes dominate as Calvin lists a mixture of pleasant and unpleasant experiences, giving the listener a good example of the feel of the rest of Black Candy. "Knick Knack" picks up the lighthearted tone again, but mixes a taste of the supernatural with Heather's angelic chorus of "you see a ghost, I see a halo;" and the mix continues with "Pajama Party in a Haunted Hive," showing off the seeming paradox that it is possible to have fun in a location that inspires mainly fear. And the guitar has the feedback to prove it.

What I found most impressive is that the song to which I most often returned was "Gravedigger Blues" which is Calvin's a capella and finger-snapping ode to love and death. Following "Gravedigger Blues" is the often-covered "Cast a Shadow" (which seems to be misnamed as the chorus states for the subject to "cast your shadow in my direction." But I'm picky about things like that. Succeeding "Shadow" is "Bonfire," a simple ditty that soon wears out its welcome. But hot on its heels comes an ode to "T.V. Girl" (which is better than "T.B. Girl," I suppose), a moody tribute to a girl who seems to have it all. Unfortunately, he can't seem to decide which note suits his singing of "girl" best, so he scatters all over the clef trying out note after note to rather grating effect.

Maybe it is the T.V. Girl who Calvin wants to invite to his "Playhouse." A playhouse with everything for the girl with everything? Sounds like a good arrangement to me, as long as you don't mind "[taking] off all our clothes. In my playhouse, that's how it goes." "Ponytail" provides the perfect close to Black Candy with its multi-layered presentation combined with Calvin's cry of love to--apparently--a horse. But who knows? And it's this questionable subject matter that lends the song a disturbing feel that crescendoes with the dual guitars to a powerful end.

The mixed dark and light feel of Black Candy makes it a wonderful companion listen to its predecessor, Jamboree. Put the two CDs on random play and you won't know which song came from which. If I were in charge of these rereleases, I would have traded a few songs on each disc, for example taking "Other Side" and "Cast a Shadow" over to Jamboree and replacing them on here with that album's "Bewitched" and "Hangman."

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