Brief Candles is a shoegaze/noise rock four-piece. Three of the four members come from Peoria, Illinois, but the band is headquartered in Milwaukee. The band likes to point out that Richard Pryor was from Peoria and that Gene Wilder was born in Milwaukee. Because of their connection to those two cities, they jokingly say that they are the musical equivalent of the “seminal films” (their words, not mine) Stir Crazy and See No Evil, Hear No Evil. Actually, I recently watched “Stir Crazy” again for the first time in about 25 years, and I kind of hated it. I liked it when I was a kid, but I didn’t really care for it as a cranky adult.
Anyway, the band released one album in 2006, and another in 2011. Last month, they released an EP called Newhouse in honour of a friend who passed away recently. They say that their friend is “skating some cosmic half-pipe whilst trying to pick up women with the line “I can play ‘The Sight of You’ by Pale Saints on guitar”.
Until a couple of days ago, I had never heard anything by this band. I didn’t get anything in the mail bag about them. I actually saw their name pop up a few times in these “based on your tastes, you should check out ______” sections of the last.fm page. That’s a pretty useful tool, actually. So when I clicked over to the bandcamp page for Brief Candles and read the description, they had me. They had me at “Pale Saints”. That’s all it takes.
Of course, once I listened to a few songs, I was able to confirm my pre-judgement: this band is the kind of thing that I like. A lot.
When I headed over to the Brief Candles Facebook page, I found the photo above. I love the photo for a number of reasons. Most notably, the fact that they have more than one framed copy of the Ride double-EP Smile on the wall of their space. Okay… Maybe they’re promo flats rather than LP versions of the record, but it’s still awesome to see that on their wall. Also, to my chagrin, I see that one of the guys is reading the completely unreadable book Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace. I bought that book when it was a new release, based on a review that I read in Puncture. Remember Puncture? Damn, I miss that magazine. Anyway, I bought the book, and thought I would be all la-dee-dah if I had it on my coffee table. I tried to finish it. I really tried. I think I’ve tried to read that book three times over the years, but I’ve never been able to get more than 300 pages into the 1200 page door stop. David Foster Wallace was an incredible short story writer. In addition, he wrote some really breathtaking non-fiction stuff about tennis. Take, for example, this thing about Roger Federer at the 2005 US Open. Breathtaking. You don’t have to be a tennis fan to appreciate his narrative.
Infinite Jest featured some fractured story lines that had a lot to do with tennis, and those bits were very good. However, the other fractured story lines in the book were agonizingly bad enough to invalidate the beauty of the tennis writing. So because of that book, I decided that I hated David Foster Wallace. Even though he could crank out some unalloyed bit of genius like that Federer piece, his writing was just too frustrating for me. Very Faulknerian in the way that one sentence might span three pages. That same sentence might have ten dependent adjectival clauses, lots of commas, and parenthetical phrases. There are a lot of major characters in Infinite Jest, and like a Faulkner novel, you have to keep a chart handy to remember who is related to whom and all that jazz. Like I said, I hated the book. Which is why I was really annoyed when my friend Meridith told me that when she plugged a few graphs of my writing into I Write Like, it came back with “David Foster Wallace”. She plugged in several different samples of two or three graphs of my writing, and each time it came back with the same thing. I was shattered to hear that news. She first told me about this eight years ago, and she still reminds me about it.
When DFW killed himself in 2008, I was a little bit shocked, but I wouldn’t say that I was sad.
Enough about David Foster Wallace.
After I listened to a few Brief Candles songs, I really fell in love with this one.
I like that it’s a little fuzzy and a little lo-fi at the start. The first half of the song is anchored by that fuzzy bass bit, a nice melody, and sweet vocals. Then, almost at exactly the half-way point, the song makes a drastic turn. And it gets even more awesome. At 2:22, there’s that squelch, and then there’s a gradual increase in feedback, white noise, phase shifting and lots of other heavy effects. By the end, it’s just a sheer wall of sound. A beautiful, glorious wall of sound.
You can buy Newhouse from the bandcamp page here