To many, Candlebox are very much a band of their time. Hit single Far Behind is often considered a staple of ’90s alt-rock and post-grunge, and though albums have been continuing to flow since the Seattle quartet’s reunion in 2006, their ’90s heyday is still considered their definitive period. It’s not exactly a surprise then that new album Disappearing In Airports sees the band updating their sound for as wider reach as possible, smoothing out the rough, grimy edges of their formerly grunge sound for something much more akin to full-on hard rock.
There are instances on this sixth album where the transition from grunge to hard rock seems to have gone perfectly smoothly as well. The Bridge packs in plenty of dynamics like a great driving riff and frontman Kevin Martin’s most explosive vocal performance on the entire album, while Supernova is buoyed by an infectious, rubbery riff and a huge, arena-ready chorus. Elsewhere, there’s the swagger-filled riffs and gleaming brass accompaniments on I’ve Got A Gun, and Alive At Last is the kind of wonderfully over-the-top power ballad that would bring a tear to Jon Bon Jovi’s eye. Their grungier leanings may have been tidied up by a great deal on this album, but solid tracks like these show Candlebox’s adaptability to a newer sound, and how they manage to make it work for themselves.
But Disappearing In Airports reveals itself to be an album that veers wildly in terms of quality, and while half shows a strong connection to their more streamlined sound, the rest takes a dramatic dive. It’s not that these songs are really terrible, because they’re not (Crazy‘s earworm of a chorus being a notable example). It’s that they suffer from a combination of being overly bland, forgettable or, in the case of opening duo Only Because Of You and Vexacious, trying too hard to modernise a sound that would really be better if left alone. These are really the worst examples of Candlebox getting things wrong, with painfully weedy guitars and the overpowering sheen that Shinedown have made their calling card.
Fortunately, everything else on this album is of at least a somewhat higher quality, but the weaker tracks are still easy to snuff out. I Want It Back plods down the middle of the road in an offensively inoffensive manner, while God’s Gift feels like the token overly angsty track in its clunky chorus and admittedly fairly decent riff. On the whole it’s an album that doesn’t exactly play it safe, but is nowhere near the level of ambition that rock music has reached nowadays.
Disappearing In Airports is definitely not a bad album though, just an album that gets lost in bad habits more often than would be ideal. And while it’s dragged down from being a really strong album and fails to consistently grip thanks to the abundance of these weaker moments, it’s definitely listenable all the same. But when the best compliment that can be paid to an album is that it’s listenable, that should be a warning sign that there are definitely better choices out there.
For fans of: Silverchair, Hoobastank, Matchbox Twenty
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Disappearing In Airports’ by Candlebox is released on 22nd April on Pavement Entertainment.