Beat Happening
Black Candy


4.5
superb

Review

by User Review By USER (59 Reviews)
April 19th, 2021 | 19 replies


Release Date: 1989 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Beat Happening, burnt black.

Beat Happening’s Black Candy is often seen as the black sheep of their catalog. It’s almost too perfect, isn’t it? With it’s stark black and white cover and Heather Lewis’ hypnotizing peppermint(?) candy swirl drawing, the band’s third record is noticeably a much gloomier affair than their previous work. Which is something you wouldn’t really expect from the band, at least at this point. After all, Beat Happening built their career on channeling both childlike whimsy and lo-fi punk rock. Black Candy is comparatively subdued affair, leaning more into the atmosphere than ever before.

I say that, but it isn’t like this album is devoid of upbeat tunes. Opener “Other Side” and “Cast a Shadow” are both familiar in their twee stylings. Though they do have the benefit of much cleaner production, courtesy of Steve Fisk. Album closer “Ponytail” steers more towards jangle pop and art rock layering, making for one of the group’s best tracks.

It isn’t until track two, the title track “Black Candy,” that the darker overtones take over. Calvin Johnson’s distinct baritone speak-singing bitter lyrics atop grungy guitar riffs and pounding drums makes for one of the album’s best moments:

“Drip my blood, fall in love, chew my cud, mess my head,”
”cross my heart, molten lead, read my palm, give me some”
“black candy...”

Another instance of more “mature” writing is on “Pajama Party in a Haunted Hive,” which sees Johnson begging for honey to be forced down his throat, sexual desire creaking out of his mouth clear as day. “Playhouse” starts off innocent enough, before forgoing pretense and having the two lovebirds suddenly start taking their clothes off. There had always been a darker undercurrent to Beat Happening’s work, but it’s brought to the forefront on Black Candy. While I do enjoy the album’s take on teenage love affairs and darker themes, the album is at its best when these ideas are hidden behind innuendo.

I suppose I would be remiss if I also didn’t mention “Gravedigger Blues,” which by my account remains one of Beat Happening’s weakest tracks. That track and the previously mentioned “Playhouse” don’t offer very much aside from temporary amusement and are more distracting than anything. As much as I enjoy Johnson’s vocal style, it isn’t enough to carry a song; especially one as dry as “Gravedigger Blues.”

In a wonderful little “article” by Vice, Calvin Johnson bitterly and reluctantly ranks Black Candy as his least favorite Beat Happening record, calling it “not that interesting” and saying that he hadn’t listened to the album in a long time. I suppose when you have four amazing records to look back on, there’s little incentive to go back to the fifth one you remember being a bore. But I’d think Black Candy deserves more credit than that. I’m not saying I know better than the man himself, but specifically to those who may feel the same. While diehards tend to gravitate towards the opposite ends of the band’s discography when picking a favorite, that doesn’t mean the poor black sheep of the bunch should be left out. I’ve found that the album is perfect for the darkest of nights, when there’s nary a star in the sky and you want to dance to a slightly slower, moodier, darker Beat.



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Comments:Add a Comment 
SandwichBubble
April 19th 2021


12760 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Stream: https://beathappening.bandcamp.com/album/black-candy

Source on the Beat Happening ranking article: https://www.vice.com/en/article/rjxaw3/rank-your-records-beat-happening-calvin-johnson

And with this, the Beat Happening discog has been properly reviewed.

If you don’t count the EPs, singles, compilations, and various artists entries.

NorthernSkylark
April 19th 2021


11267 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Thank you very much. Will revisit this soon.

Digging: Matt Sweeney and Bonnie Prince Billy - Superwolves

SandwichBubble
April 19th 2021


12760 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

You better.



Also, just want to point out that Calvin Johnson himself (aka the man) ranks their self-titled as Beat Happening's best album.

Take that, 𝚕𝚘𝚜𝚎𝚛𝚜.

NorthernSkylark
April 19th 2021


11267 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Of course he does.

NorthernSkylark
April 19th 2021


11267 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

He also says this is their least interesting. Take that!

NorthernSkylark
April 19th 2021


11267 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Can you tell me why this album is in this spot? ( about dreamy as #4)



So all of your questions are just a variation on “How come this isn’t your favorite album?” Every time you want to know why isn’t this number one? It seems kind of boring. That must be a pretty boring job asking, “Why isn’t this your favorite album?”

SandwichBubble
April 19th 2021


12760 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I actually agree that this is their least interesting. I had it at a 4.0 before I started writing this review.

But even at their worst, I still love them. How's that for blind fanboy dedication?



Plus, this has a lot of good songs. Only two I don't really like all that much are Gravedigger Blues and Playhouse. Rest is gold.

SandwichBubble
April 19th 2021


12760 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

And yeah, he's quite the sassmaster in that "article." What a champ, gotta love em.

parksungjoon
April 19th 2021


30896 Comments


Review by Rating Above the Garbage USER (58 Reviews)

Digging: Make a Change...Kill Yourself - II

GhandhiLion
April 19th 2021


11727 Comments


I'm a garbage user

Digging: Impossible Nothing - Lexemenomicon

parksungjoon
April 19th 2021


30896 Comments


smae

SandwichBubble
April 19th 2021


12760 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Whose this guy think he is? Sounds like a real asshole if you ask me, real full of himself hipster type.



My next reviewer name is going to be "User Review By" so it's "Review By User Review By User"

parksungjoon
April 19th 2021


30896 Comments


fuck yea

NorthernSkylark
April 19th 2021


11267 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Review By User Dumpster Recycled Reviews.

SandwichBubble
April 19th 2021


12760 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Changed it

but now my profile pic doesn't make sense anymore.

I worked really hard on it too.



Review By trashreviewwriter.net user

NorthernSkylark
April 19th 2021


11267 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

It’s certainly much better now.

SandwichBubble
April 19th 2021


12760 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

I guess, but now it's not an in-joke only I get!

I'm keeping the profile pic, I don't care.



Glad I reviewed this, cause this grew on me a lot while writing it.

dedex
Contributing Reviewer
April 23rd 2021


7817 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

Ha nice, didn't see the rev. Listening right now!

NorthernSkylark
April 23rd 2021


11267 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I would prob be a sass if someone asked me to rate my own albums too



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