I once found myself the pained victim of a “Punk Rock Charity Event” at an established venue in lovely Tampa, FL. Washing down a basket of blazing hot hush puppies with many gulps of Guinness, my friend, a very wise man and professor of good taste, warned me of the agonies that awaited as a 7-piece band crowded the stage with Wurlizters, triangles, musical saws, synths, dobros, guitars, bicycle bells, bass, drums, and, yes–an Electro-Theremin (No, I am not shitting you.) “I am of the opinion that a four-piece band is one piece too many,” he said, a less-is-more aesthetic philosophy proven true by bands like The Gossip, The Black Keys, The White Stripes, and, as you’ll see below, a band called The Boxing Lesson. He was right, of course: the band sounded like the musical equivalent of gastroenteritis.
I promptly began scrolling the venue for the nearest emergency exit to no avail, gripping a beer with one hand and holding my head together with the other in full anticipation that it would split in three any minute. I somehow made it through the evening, but not without fleeing home to a stack of early Stones albums in the hope that they would make the world comprehensible to me once again. So imagine my euphoria upon discovering a band that relishes the deceptively boundless possibilities inherent in the three-piece concept. An up-and-coming threesome out of Austin, Texas, The Boxing Lesson betray a rather thinly veiled affinity for Pink Floyd on their new LP, Wild Streaks and Windy Days; but they roughen the edges of that influence with an open-armed embrace of Spacemen 3, The Cure, Radiohead and Broken Social Scene.
The Boxing Lesson: Dance With Meow, Wild Streaks and Windy Days (2008)
Little is left to the imagination when an album opens with a title like “Dark Side of the Moog“–just in case you questioned the veracity of comparisons to Pink Floyd–a smoking-hot and brooding intro to the brand of neo-psychedelic space rock they so proudly peddle (what the fuck is a “moog,” you’re asking–OK. Here.) “Lead Boxer, Paul Waclawsky, flexes his songwriting muscles and his space echoes like never before on this ageless recording inspired by the Austin indie music scene and radio transmissions from outer space,” they explain (in keeping with the theme, the static of those “transmissions” is heard in the fade of “Dark Side”–these guys are on top of things.) “Paul’s voice shows maturity and his epic sonic guitar textures are psychedelic and lush, like Cassiopeia A, the birthplace of the stars,” they continue. Even between the lines of the band’s own copy, you can hear vague echoes of Pink Floyd’s “Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun.” Consider their influences established.
And they’re not kidding–the trippy title track, which evokes vivid memories of waiting in line for another ride on Disney’s Space Mountain–really does give you the feeling that you’ve just been strapped to a rocket and sent through the sky to probe some intergalactic snowstorm. Gushing with synths that leave you wondering if this is the lost Part 10 of Floyd’s epic “Shine on You Crazy Diamond,” the song undulates through some zero-gravity dream in a shining silver space suit while sending transmissions to rumored lifeforms on the 57th moon of Saturn. Paul Waclawsky–self-described “songwriter and astronaut”–lends his feathery vocals to cloak the tune in a distinctly airy robe of sound, a gorgeous contrast to the feedback-laden pop mastery of other tracks like the chiseled “Brighter“–the easiest pick for a summer road trip mix that we’ve heard all year.
The Boxing Lesson: “Brighter,” Live in Austin, TX (Feb. 2008)
As if any further proof was needed, Wild Streaks and Windy Days confirms once again that to label a band is to kill a band. It is too easy to dismiss The Boxing Lesson as a post-punk new wave act and move blithely on to your next victim. But as Whoopsy Magazine puts it, “there’s a lot more going on here . . . catchy backing vocals, surreal lyrics, and a modern pop sensibility stand out the most.” But The Boxing Lesson aren’t just another upstart “indie” band pushing the praise of rags called “Whoopsy.” The Onion calls them “a hard-charging trio,” and The Austin Chronicle praises them for “opening a Pandora’s box of psychedelia.” The Boxing Lesson take us somewhere genuinely new with Wild Streaks and Windy Days; and if they have to fumble through a jewel chest of prior eras to get there, they never look back so long as to undermine a vision of their own.
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