If you only take a chance on one new rock album this month, make it this one. I don't normally go out and give such straight endorsements of records that I hear, but then "Radiation" isn't a normal record. To paraphrase what my friend said while recommending this to me, it's emotional, but it's not emo. It's dark, but it's not goth. It's from an unsigned band, but don't let that fool you into thinking that the production here is anything but top-notch.
The Boxing Lesson are firstly and foremost a mood band, but they don't fall into the traps that many mood bands fall into, their music not only is concise and allows the listener to get the message that the band is trying to convey, but it also doesn't come off as feeling pretentious or artificial. There are a whole bag of bands that you could compare this to, OK Computer-era Radiohead, the more mellow moments of The Smashing Pumpkins, The Cure and Pink Floyd perhaps, but nobody in the mainstream really comes close to describing the sound presented here. Indie bands like The Autumns are a bit closer to the mark, but again, the sound of this band cannot be accurately described with mere words.
After a short introduction, the first song, Radiation sets the tone of this album. Opening with a simple guitar melody for a few seconds, before the rest of the band kicks in, helped along by some ethereal keyboard noises that sound as if they're off in the distance; the music floats along for about a minute, establishing the mood and setting, before the plaintive, haunting vocals come into the mix. A note of congratulation has to go to vocalist Paul Waclawsky here, his delivery perfectly complements the material that the band has, not overpowering it, but not being subservient to it either.
Further tracks, like Comfortable, which drifts for two and a half minute before the band kicks in, turning the meandering but pretty music into a forward-moving rock song, just prove the band's credentials. There are occasionally noisy sections on this record, but they're used with enough restraint and unpredictability that when one comes up, it is as if your stereo grabs you and punches you in the face. Pharmacy is another highlight on an already great album, it doesn't rely on any gimmicks or fancy ideas, it's simply a phenomenally well executed rock song with great vocals.
At only thirty-three minutes, this record might be considered a bit short by some, but I think that the brevity actually helps it, I doubt whether this sort of music would be as impactful and amazing if there was an hour of it here. On "Radiation", The Boxing Lesson have cut all the fat from their music, and produced a record which shows that they're a band that should be taken seriously, in addition to providing some of the best music I've heard so far in 2004.
- Craig Franklin
Craig's Rating: 8.5
The Boxing Lesson is:
Paul Waclawsky - vocals, guitar, synth
Phil Cobb - guitar, moog source, polymoog
John Treanor - guitar, vibes
Casey Jones - drums, vibes
Mel Dillon - bass, synth