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CANDLEBOX (Buy CDs by this artist)
Candlebox (Maverick/Sire) 1993
Lucy (Maverick) 1995

Much as Bon Jovi put a net on hair metal, Candlebox's primary function was to put a final stamp of megaselling irrelevance on the rotten corpse of Big Northwest Noise. Swept along in the Pearl Jam backdraft (another negative factor to improve PJ's standing in the creative food chain), the Seattle quartet arrived — on Madonna's label, no less — in mid-'93 with a debut that exhausted the region's clichés in one thundering, colorless roar. Free of irony, independence or imagination — which more or less makes Candlebox this decade's Grand Funk Railroad — the good-natured group hybridizes grunge and raunch (graunch?) with such generic witlessness that it would be overstating things to call them derivative. Unimproved by occasional lyrical dips into the social-concern pool (the anti-drug putdown of "You," the homeless pathos of "He Calls Home"), Peter Klett's hackneyed guitar flash, the lumbering rhythm section of Bardi Martin (bass) and Scott Mercado (drums) and Kevin (no relation) Martin's macho, overheated vocals add up to a big, noisy nothing.

Other than stylistic inklings of U2, Bad Company and Robin Trower (go figure) on Lucy, the pressures of a triple-platinum debut had no audible effect on Candlebox. Beyond its self-possession, the band's second album exhibits added variety and texture in the sound of its robust rock, but nothing short of a power outage could improve the imbecilic songs or third-rate guitar heroics of this dismal throwback.

[Ira Robbins]