The tongue-in-cheek hubris of this CD itself is one of its main selling points. On their second outing, The Boxing Lesson not only names the album Big Hits!, but tells the listener to “play loudly, do not shuffle” and writes the words “You’re welcome” on the inside of the jewel case.

Coming from Kanye West, this would be standard boasting, but The Boxing Lesson is not such a band. The other main selling point is the music itself; coming off a four-year gestation that saw turmoil for this trio, remaining members Paul Waclawsky and Jaylinn Davidson have created a solid rock and roll record that is not only miles ahead of their debut but also a contender for the Top 20 Albums of 2013.

The reason for the “do not shuffle” order is that the disc is structured a bit like a concept album, starting with the nine minute crawl of “Endless Possiblities” and hitting a number of rock songs before ending with the hazy “Fight Parade.” It makes sense to listen to it all the way through, as the music has momentum and a clear sense of direction. Such thought is not the norm in what passes for rock in this decade.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

As for the sound, the band has left behind the alt-emo sound of the debut for a more organic, garage and blues rock inspired approach that draws equally from the Foo Fighters and The Black Keys. Yet the space-rock, Floydian sound of the debut is here as well, not so much in the sound but in how certain songs take time to unfold and make the most of their space, creating tension and release. “Endless Possibilities” is like that, riding a sparse beat and slowly adding on instruments until, after an eternity, the vocals finally come in.

It’s a ballsy choice to start a disc like this, especially because most of what follows is far more energetic. “Tape Deck Time Machine” is an easy highlight, a kinetic, punchy raver that frankly is the direction rock music should be taking this decade. “Eastside Possibilities” and “Red River Blues” follow a similar pattern, songs that say a lot without laboring to say it, music with one foot on the ground and eyes to the clouds.

“Health Is The New Drug” sums up the joint space/garage rock approach, starting with a languid intro before moving into a catchy, head-bopping groove, allowing Waclawsky a chance to solo for a bit before moving into the Britpop-esque vocals. Several of the tracks on the second half of the disc repeat the themes of those first four songs to lesser results, but there are no outright clunkers, although “Fight Parade” ends with a bit of a whimper, even if it brings the trip back to where it begins.

The beauty of Big Hits! is that it can’t really be classified as space rock, alt rock or prog rock. Such a varied, involving listen deserves to be discussed outside of the band’s Austin, TX hometown, and certainly the band deserves validation after all it went through – car crash, theft of the master tapes, original drummer arrested for growing pot – to record something this good. Perhaps the boasting is warranted after all.

Rating: B+

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