Remember Kids, never take Candy from strangers. That is, unless they're glamorous, foxy, and smell divine. In such a case, fill your kinky boots!
Candi and the Strangers are feeling nostalgic. They want to take you back, Back, BACK...TO THE FUTURE! More specifically, the future as seen from the early '80s. Oh, what a view. Yes, they may take their name and design from Warhol and his factory Darlings, but their heart beats best to the pulse of 1981. Blondie, OMD, Human League, ABC, Soft Cell, Yazoo. Sprinkle a soupçon of the later models (Pulp, Ladytron, Goldfrapp) and Bob's your Auntie's live-in lover. Obviously, being 1981, 10th of Always boasts a trim nine tracks, and luckily all are good. The winning formula? KAPOW! Hit 'em with deadly radio slaying pop assassins straight off. BAM! At halftime, leap off the beaten path, go a tad 'trippy' and frankly 'wig out'. Convert those skeptics whilst delivering essential artistic depth! WHAM! Toss off a more amazin' pop gems seemingly effortlessly as if you could do this in your sleep. BOKKO! Deliver your brutal smackdown, the victorious n' epic kiss-off finale before completing a saucy lap of honour. People of Pop, 10th of Always knows this secret formula. No rehearsals, no breaks, no fucking around. Let's get down to business. This is it, tonight is forever. It's all happening, baby, and this is their happening.
First cut "Still a Star" (key message: "YOU are a star") sets the pace, as lush 'n' floaty as Olivia and ELO's glamtastic "Xanadu". Sleek, glacial pop that sounds like it emerged from Superman's crystal castle ('79 model), born of ice and diamonds. Cool, expensive, and glazed with elegance. "You, just like glass", whispers chief Candi Samantha Constant, her breathy vocals filling the chill like expensive perfume. "Relax and float downstream", she later coos on "Femme Sonique". Floating through Candi's world is the only way to travel. So much so that "Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space" should be their tagline. "Sonique" itself is effectively Blondie's "Atomic" under blissful, but heavy, sedation. Waves of heavenly harps glisten through the moonlight. Ooh, look at the twinkling blinking lights! Whoa, those people look like ants! Hey ants! I'm totally flying! Hey don't Bogart that joint. Hell, there's even a song called "Glide". Another Debbie Harry rhapsodic rapture, it's best heard in the bath, bubbles and candles a-go-go and resplendent in Farah Fawcett bouffant -- a lusciously synthetic trip-out into divine hedonism, and oh-so-slightly filthy. Where was I? Oh yes! Experience 10th of Always and you will believe a man can fly. Just like Superman, Evel Knievel, or R. Kelly.
Candi does tough, too, albeit still with incredible hair and make-up. "I Am Radio" kicks like Stereolab with a migraine and a tight deadline. Chunky truck driver man riffs with clipped, "Who's the boss?" demands. "I! AM! A! RADIO!" barks Constant like some shiny pink 'Lady Dalek'. If you're not ashamed to show some lovin' for Flock of Seagulls' "Space Age Love Song", hop aboard and let's float on. "Children of the Tone" -- the theme to their planned animated feature (seriously) -- is another walk on the wildside. It's Glass Candy's Ida No purring Kim Wilde's "Cambodia" whilst looking 'mysterious' and 'intrigued', but at all times still 'severly glamorous'. It's possible to do a robot dance to it whilst wearing a black bin liner and lime green wraparound shades. Not that I did that, but it's definitely 'possible'.
Despite its new romantic leanings, two of its nine valentines are clearly stamp marked 'NY, NY, 1969'. "Velvet" crashes through towers of Mo Tucker crescendos to fall into the arms of Nico's ghost mumbling about "Explosions, multiple explosions". Tambourines, polo necks, Ray Bans, sensitive fringes, and a swinging "Do do do" hook. Prom night collapsing under flames, it will sound amazing live. It's Candi's "Common People", one nation of misfits under a groove. It's twinned by galloping single "Nico Regrets". Weird scenes in the goldmine with "People's brains" on a "Jesus trip". "Just for a minute I'd like to turn the whole world on", drawls Constant like the lost orphan of Ken Kesey and Patty Hearst. Destination 'further', baby.
10th of Always knows how to make an entrance, but more importantly how to bow out. Its tail carries its sting. The title track is a full-on, arms aloft, lighters out, winner's anthem. That moment in the movie where the guy realises he's been a doofus and in a blinding moment of clarity, flips the car around and tries to stop the girl from getting on that plane. It's Benjamin Braddock banging on the church window, trying to stop time, desperate for Elaine Robinson to look up. It's widescreen, imperial pop fuelled by midnight madness and momentary magic. The seven-minute finale (don't worry, it's ace) "The Weather Is Here, Wish You Were Beautiful" is a supermodel and, hell, it knows it. Confident, classy, majestic, and a little stoned, it's their "Purple Rain", their "Hey Jude", their "I Am the Resurrection". From its Doors-esque creeping intro, the stop-start 'catch me' drums and spiralling moog riff, to its other worldly regal vocal, it screams "Congratulations! You're a winner". It's even cocky enough to slip in a burst of Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" for fun. It's serpentine melody winds off into the night leaving you swooning and hungry for more. Hey, that's some way to say goodbye.
Like Blanche Dubois, you should always depend on the kindness of Strangers. Especially if they're dressed to kill and handing out delicious disco biscuits. Candi and the Strangers' 10th of Always is pretty much essential soul food for anyone who loves their pop both 'electro' and 'ace'. Amazingly consistent and often stellar, it is a voluptuous salute to our synth pop pioneers. All the dreams, futurist manifestos, naïve absurdity, romance, glamour, escapism, colossal melodies and, yes, asymmetrical hair. More human than human, this is probably what electric sheep dream of. These Texan darlings may not bring anything 'new' to the party, but 10th of Always is so lovingly crafted, fiendishly clever, and unapologetically brilliant that it is a bloomin' treasure. Candi and the Strangers, you burn way too brightly to stay hiding in that velvet underground any longer. Fly my pretties, fly!