When The Long Blondes released their trash-disco second offering ‘Couples’ earlier this year, Rebecca Nicholson’s review in NME correctly sourced the Blondes’ ‘new’ decadent direction back to Glass Candy. For many it was the first time they had heard of the Portland-based band, though the mysterious twosome of Johnny Jewel and Ida No had been quietly helming a disco revolution for 10 years. But who were they?
Glass Candy, like fellow male/female dance pioneers Crystal Castles, have been described as distant and elusive which, like CC, only adds to their magnetic mystique. Similarly, too, they have a love/hate relationship with the press. After some early (bad) reviews for their debut release, 2001’s ‘Smashed Candy’, they outright refused to do interviews and, despite the deafening blog-led hype, ‘B/E/A/T/B/O/X’ isn’t yet officially available to buy in the UK, only via import. In fact, it’s their third album, but significant for two reasons – it’s the first on Italians Do It Better (a label set up, in part, for them) and the first where Jewel’s dreamy synths vacillate over No’s wide-eyed, mannequin-like vocals with such expansive, knowing depth. It really is remarkable.
If Andy Butler’s Hercules And Love Affair represent a brilliantly updated disco idiom for the post-Klaxons age, Glass Candy are breezily re-imagining it as something monumental. Their sound has been called ‘Italo’ and ‘smack disco’ and sees the dancefloor as a place of majesty and mysterious elegance, not the sweaty graveyard of ‘Agadoo’ and ‘The Cheeky Song (Touch My Bum)’. Partly due to Glass Candy’s classic songwriting and their archaic way of recording (Jewel only uses antique kit while No sings into a hand-held mic) much of ‘B/E/A/T/B/O/X’’s sound recalls Giorgio Moroder’s legendary work with Donna Summer. And, like Moroder, Jewel knows the best dance music has not only rhythm but edge and menace. ‘Digital Versicolor’ mixes ‘I Feel Love’ with the theme from John Carpenter’s Halloween while No intones her deadly nursery rhyme-like lyrics over the top. Meanwhile, the buzzing ‘Beatific’ stares wide-eyed at the disco ball with “beatific visions of horror and lovely things”. ‘B/E/A/T/B/O/X’ is a wonderfully fresh album untethered by the sound of history or the wrench of cliché. For that reason, it’s absolutely vital.