Songs in the Key of C
After releasing The Boxing Lesson EP (2003) and Radiation (2004), songwriter Paul Waclawsky left LA for Austin, TX, where he put together a new line-up and made a new recording, Songs in the Key of C (2006). Inspired by synthesizer experimentation, these songs have a feeling of urgency and mark a new direction for the band that once wore their shoegaze influences on their sleeves. Cohorts Jaylinn Davidson and Jake Mitchell share the same birthday and a love for synths and sampling. Her Moog bass and leads connect with his explosive rhythms forming a hybrid rhythm section. Part organic. Part Electronic. It's definitely psychadelic but not in the traditional sense. There are hints of new wave. Hints of post-punk. Hints of something new. It's a new boxing lesson. Our record collections define us: Bowie to Broken Social Scene. Eno to Enon. Can to Spoon. The Cure to MBV. Pink Floyd to Rollerskate Skinny. Neil Young to Neu!. Spacemen 3 to Stereolab. Willie to Ween. Songs in the Key of C was recorded by Tim Gerron at The Music Lab in Austin, TX. Equal parts guitar and synth-rock, this new recording reverberates the sound of a new beginning for a group of kids who should be adults by now. This is your wake up call, kids. This is your boxing lesson. Keep your left up! LOCAL REVIEWS: AUSTIN CHRONICLE: Though claiming 'Indie Rock Is Dead,' the Boxing Lesson's Songs in the Key of C provides enough lo-fi life support in it's tales of criminals and crackheads to stay the reaper. Opener 'Back From the Dead' welds ghostly theremin to a knotty rock tune, opening a Pandora's box of psychedelia explored further in the gothy 'Climb the Ladder' and Bowie-esque 'Mirrors.' 3 stars Christopher Gray AUSTIN DAZE: The Boxing Lesson pulls together many different styles in 'Songs in the Key of C'. That's a difficult task to take on. Many bands have failed at it and wind up with a disjointed, fragmented work. This is not the case with this recording. The eight song CD is a fine listen, taking you from rocking cuts like the opening 'Back from the Dead,' to soft and lovely with 'Mirrors'. Guitars and synthesizers seem to have equal importance throughout, and the result is a kaleidoscope of sound. Paul Waclawsky and Jaylinn Davidson get a lot of coolness out of their keyboards, yet the album stays in the rock category and away from sounding overly electronic. 'Songs in the Key of C' is a well textured piece, and I've heard new things each time I've put this album on. The songs are also good for pumping your fist to, and that's a jab/uppercut combo that makes this group a contender. 8.5 Stars Daisy Riprock AUSTIN SOUND: While the second track of The Boxing Lesson's latest EP claims 'Indie Rock is Dead,' the album does it's best to keep the statement ironic. The band's third release, the 26-minute Songs in the Key of C, is littered with small successes that offer up at least a bit of musical CPR to the supposedly deceased genre. It may not be divine resurrection, but it still gets your pulse thumping. The Boxing Lesson has made a name for themselves by exploring genres without falling victim to any one style's pitfalls. The first track, 'Back from the Dead,' is a steady-paced rock piece with enough spacey synth to lend credence to the band's self-professed new-wave leanings. 'Indie Rock is Dead' hits slow and builds to a sonorous climax as vocalist Paul Waclawsky croons, 'It's Rock 101.' The song may be a freshman composition, but simplicity never sounded so good. The backing vocals are crisp but not overly processed, and the very basic guitar parts keep the song from feeling overdone. Both 'Rollerskate Suitcase' and 'Climb the Ladder' have an ominous sense of urgency that, at the height of both songs, shows Indie at it's most poignant. 'Climb the Ladder' is subtly dark and perhaps melodramatic, but it lends a gothic feel to the album that seems to seep into the surrounding tracks. 'Getaway Car,' the final track, is cohesive and beautiful, with overlaying guitar lines that are both sorrowful and suspenseful, making it a memorable send-off. Even with it's successes, Songs in the Key of C never seems to catch up to the pace of it's first few songs. All the slower tracks congeal together in the middle of the album, and though the final track, 'Getaway Car,' picks up some steam, it's too late to entirely re-energize the listener. When Waclawsky intones on 'Mirrors,' 'Crying charades/with friends for hire/the beauty's bathed/in designer fire,' one can't help but appreciate the lyrical potential in the album - creating a commentary on vanity and materialism without sounding pretentious is a hard task, but Waclawsky manages to pull it off, at least on paper. In action though, such potential often rings hollow: the softer vocals on 'Climb the Ladder' and 'Crooked' are so pumped full of syrupy over-inflection that they come off sounding corny. This is tragic, because Waclawsky's voice, when strained to a more grainy shout, is sublime, which just shows that the songs that throw the most grit in the motor are those in which the band shines brightest. The Boxing Lesson does shine brightly at times - which is good, because it would be hard task bringing Indie back to life without any light on the operating table. At the same time, several major shortcomings keep Songs in the Key of C from being truly brilliant. My message to The Boxing Lesson: stabilize the patient, then let someone else do the major surgery. Evan St. John.