Firstly, I should declare an interest. These guys are all good friends and I co-own the record label the EP is on. So, I wouldn’t normally review such a release, as I will have (and have) written copiously on it for the label website, and, I try to avoid nepotism. However, I have to make a distinction in this case, as Four Candles would appear to have reached some sort of zenith in their musical endeavours.
Alternative Golf is the fourth release by Four Candles following Killing The Image, Spiritual Rapture and Nettle Rash. In many ways this four track release is the realisation of a vision and the culmination of all that has gone before.
Recorded just before lockdown at 6dB studios in Salford with Simon “Ding” Archer and featuring guest musicians Julie Cheung, Becky Alexis Martin, Julia Nelson, and Liz Vernon the EP is packed with invention, variety and sheer brilliance in terms of delivery.
Whilst Killing The Image was all about proto-punk dynamics, Spiritual Rapture skirted the edges of prog and free jazz, and Nettle Rash was pure post-punk dynamism “Alternative Golf” combines all of those elements into perfectly formed package. Never fearful of extending song lengths to deliver a vision the releases starts and ends with two lengthy pieces sandwiching a couple of more compact tunes.
Doughnuts is a tour de force – a lumbering beast of flanged/phased bass, intricate guitar lines and steady and yet restless drumming with added piano, flute, bassoon, trumpet and an intense vocal performance from Julia Nelson. It’s all about the three R’s concept taken to the next level. Epic in scale but at the same time minimal.
Loose Lips has been released before as a live track from a recording at the Yerrrr Bar in Manchester a couple of years back which sticks in the memory because of the stage invasion at the end. It’s a pungent rhythmic piece with Mr Moss exorcising demons in a Van Vliet/Broughton stylee. It’s a trade mark Four Candles tune which will resonate with existing fans. There are more ideas in it’s perfectly formed three minutes than most so-called alternative bands can manage on a whole album.
Basket Case is similar to Loose Lips in length and intent. Probably the most punk song on the album Moss appears to channel David Thomas and David Abraham in equal measure. Powerful and unrelenting this will I have no doubt be a live favourite when normality returns.
The closing song Requiem is the crowning glory of Four Candles to date. A stark and savage polemic about children in care. Moss is at his best lyrically here with an equally poignant and angry tirade against a system that ignores the most vulnerable in society. Musically it’s a balance between a slow burning melodic bed below the opening discourse, building with pizzicato strings to a mammoth rock beast of a thing with Moss howling at the moon as the band power Godzilla like through the music world destroying all before it with fire and brimstone. It builds to an inexorable climax and you are left wanting more. When I first saw them perform this live at Fuel Bar in Withington last year with an audience of me and a handful of close friends I pitied the foolish people who had come to see the support bands and had buggered off early to their cosy South Manchester pied a terre’s. Their loss our gain.
Pink Press Threat? nah! Prole Art Affect? Most definitely. Educational, emotive, excessive? Forget the three R’s we have the three E’s and the Four C’s.