Whenever someone sends me something labeled as “space rock” I think of two things: 1) Star Wars and 2) how you will never be able to top Star Wars. To a lesser extent, it reminds me of that song “Space Rock” off of Weezer’s Maladroit. In all three of these cases, what usually comes out of the speakers do not resemble Star Wars or less-than-par Weezer songs.
The Boxing Lesson, a two-piece from Austin, Texas, is considered space rock above all other types of rock they may fashion together. If the cover art was any indication, The Chichen Itza superimposed over Saturn themes this album as a sort of “past versus future” vibe. This seems fitting to an extent, as the album is a sort of homage or maybe even documented evolution from what The Boxing Lesson was to what it has become, musically-speaking. However… much like your rear view mirrors indicate, these self-descriptions may seem larger than what they actually are.
Listen to the entire Muerta EP below!
The Boxing Lesson takes some of the more jam-rock components of the 70s and 80s and pieces them together in a neater fashion. The entire vibe of the album is massive. It’s literally space-like. The airy jam-rock guitar-driven soundscaping drives this towards something Rush might have thought of. Another band that might ring a similar bell: Gypsyblood. The sound from The Boxing Lesson is larger than Gypsyblood’s sound, but similar in the shoegaze department. That head down toe-tapping rhythm? The Boxing Lesson has mastered it.
Sadly, the album takes a long time to get in to. Those who have not been avid space rockers or deep shoegazers may find themselves turned off by track one. Those who are avid space rockers and shoegazers may find the EP something… short. Which says a lot since the four tracks span just shy of 30 minutes. In the end, too much is going on and too little is happening. The gigantic space sound is usually met with build ups into no where or underscore music b-sides from Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. If they were going for the “feels like I’m walking in an infinitely large room in complete darkness” feel, then they completely got what they wanted. However, I feel a little more like “feels like I’m sitting in that closet downstairs that no one uses listening to some weird music”. And if that is what they wanted me to feel… well, shit. They should probably go into social psychology instead of music.
For specific examples of what I’m not enjoying… here’s a few: There are splashes of rhythms and melodies related to the guitar that you seem like you can hold on to for a bit… but then it’s trashed either by some weird transition into vocal verses or a wall of white space noise. The vocals themselves are not enjoyable in any case. It just adds another factor of awkward and (dare I say) annoyance into the slushy of white space noise, distortion and whatever other weird layers The Boxing Lesson decided to throw into the pile. Maybe the most eye opening thing was the fact that they used three different drummers throughout the recording process. Really? It doesn’t sound like those drummers were really forcing their styles upon the album too much since most of them were just playing some simple bass-snare-hi-hat rhythm that Paul Waclawsky (founding member/songwriter) could have done either with the drum machine or just by himself.
Finally, what accumulates is this Muerta EP. As The Chichen Itza and Saturn look on, this is no natural wonder. Maybe a stone in the construction. Saturn plus Chichen Itza definitely does not equal this album. And like how Salvador Plascencia had Saturn as an enemy in People of Paper, sometimes it’s going to take a miracle to take on such a planet… or mechanized turtles… or something.
Assuming The Boxing Lesson didn’t want me to feel completely lost as if I was wandering in the desert, post-peyote trip, there really isn’t much to these 28-minutes that feels worthy of even a mediocre grade. The taste it leaves me with is: 1) I just want to listen to Gypsyblood, 2) I just want to listen to The Mars Volta or 3) I don’t want to listen to that ever again. In all three cases, The Boxing Lesson isn’t coming out on top.