Olympia, Wash., band the Beat Happening released its third album in 1989 on the label frontman Calvin Johnson founded, K Records. The advantages of the do-it-yourself ethos are apparent on "Black Candy" and in how the band used the imperfections of low-budget record to create an intimacy. More importantly, the band's eschewing of building and slacking to powerful climaxes in favor of a sound that's even and consistent allows their endearing hooks to really shine.
On the opening track, the lead guitar has a poppy strumming over the song's hollow but charming cardboard-box percussion. Calvin Johnson's voice is flat, quiet and thoughtful on the first few words but soon ungainly and awkward. The backing vocals give Johnson's lead, all in all, an effective whimsy. The album's first song is a warm song. The following and titular track, "Black Candy," begins with a great, apocalyptic guitar riff that works into a frothy yelp. Johnson again sings to work his voice's own inherent disadvantages into an appealing, farcical edge. The song's lyrics seem free-associative.
The lyrics on the third song, "Knick Knack," are more child-like, including the thrice-repeated line of the chorus, "You see a ghost, I see a halo." Heather Lewis has an endearing voice that fits the comfortable intimacy for which the album strives and mostly achieves.
The sixth track, "Cast a Shadow," is awesome, and strangely evocative of 1960s bubblegum pop, which only is heightened by the pining lyrics. The song retains the evenness of the first three songs. The surf-rock guitar riff on the seventh track is cool and sliding, clogging up into having a touch of growl.
The eighth song, "T.V. Girl," has a winsome, yearning quality again evocative of '60s pop. While fairly clear in being about a young crush, the lyrics still seem list-like, replete with commas. The drumming is emphatic and, again, bewitching, which chimes, of course, enhance. The ninth track's lyrics lay it on a little thick, especially for this late on the album. The drumming is demure, and contributes greatly to the collected pacing here and on the eighth track, the same equanimity heard on most of the album. The guitar part is slower, and more haltingly coquettish.
On the album's closing track, "Ponytail," the guitars rise to a fevered blur. Unlike some of the album's other, equally strong songs, this song builds momentum, albeit at a level pace, through its three and a half minutes. Yet the guitars' hectic blur metastasizes into a dreamy pop, and the drumming sounds distant and effectively improvised, giving the song an arresting immediacy. And the vicinage and engaging charm are thusly as present as on "Knick Knack" or "Cast a Shadow," and constitute a winning, engaging aesthetic for the Beat Happening.