Review Summary: The greatest Christian rock band of all time create an extremely beautiful and intelligent album that will probably never receive the credit it deserves.Health and Sport
is Luxury's fourth album, their first after a 6 year hiatus. Previously signed with Tooth and Nail records, Luxury released Health and Sport
on Northern Records, home of Kevin Max, All Things Bright and Beautiful and the Ronnie Martin (of Joy Electric) side project Shepherd.
Lee Bozeman - Vocals, Guitar, Keyboards, Songwriter
Jamey Bozeman - Guitar, Keyboards Vocals
Glenn Black - Drums
Chris Foley - Bass
Matt Hinton - Guitars, Mandolin, Banjo
It must be pretty tough to be Lee Bozeman, or indeed any of Luxury's five members. Despite the claims from their ultra-small fan base that they are one of the greatest rock bands in the world, they've never been able to make even a small impact in the music scene. And although this is an atrocity in itself, it's not difficult to understand why. Bozeman's lyrics are, on one hand, incredibly poetic, intelligent and for the right sort of person, inspiring. On the other hand, his lyrics are never watered down and always honest - sometimes brutally so. The issue, of course, stems from the fact that Luxury are an unashamedly Christian band. Because the band place a great deal of importance on both their art and their religion and refuse to sacrifice one for the other, they are in an odd place. In the Christian market, there is simply no niche for what Luxury are doing - minor keys, experimental ideas and intelligent lyrics, unfortunately, do not sell amidst the legions of cookie-cutter bands that make up the majority of CCM. At the same time, it's understandable why Bozeman's lyrics would not appeal to someone outside of Christianity. And so Luxury will probably never achieve mass success in the Christian market or otherwise. While that is understandable, it is a damn shame, considering that with Health and Sport
, Luxury have made a near-perfect record.
At this point, I need to make my biases clear. Lee Bozeman in his two projects (Luxury and his solo project All Things Bright and Beautiful) is an artist who is able to connect with me like no one else can. As a Christian myself, I find a great deal of encouragement in his work. However, even other Christian artists who I consider to be favourites of mine(Joy Electric, Derek Webb, Pedro the Lion and Starflyer 59, to name a few) don't come close to affecting me the way that Lee does. It's not just the fact that his lyrics and music are inspiring; his lyrics are some of the few I have seen in modern music that stand alone as poetry. His (and the rest of Luxury's) music always perfectly compliments the ideas that are presented in the lyrics. In short, Health and Sport
is an experience in which every single aspect compliments the others.
With that out of the way, Health and Sport
displays a mature and diverse range of influences (their record label cites, among others, Blonde Redhead, Fugazi, Led Zeppelin and Low). The album has a number of more traditional, guitar-based rock songs ("I Have Been Everywhere...", "Biography - Autobiography"), as well as a number of more industrial sounding songs that recall later Radiohead
or Nine Inch Nails
, as well as indie-rock bands such as The Notwist
. Bozeman's high tenor is distinctive; he builds up enormous walls of harmonies and has a habit of strongly milking his vowels. He very rarely sings anything fast, preferring his voice to soar over the top of whatever is going on behind it. In terms of sound, he is somewhere in between Alan Sparhawk (of Low
) and Thom Yorke (of Radiohead
). The production throughout recalls 'wall of noise' type shoegaze production. Think Loveless
with considerably less fuzz. This is most apparent on the album's opener; "Shake More Hands, Give More Hugs", which features a melancholy electric piano chord progression that bursts into a 10 minute Sonic Youth
style noise jam.
According to Northern Records, the central theme of Health and Sport
is 'realization and resignation'. To quote Lee Bozeman, the record documents "a giving up of sorts; a kind of early mid-life realization that things end and that we have to come to terms with our failings.” Indeed, the lyrics of Health and Sport
often deal with failure and disappointment, not in a self-loathing way, but with a tone of acceptance. "I'd love to believe/there was something for me/where we could just live/like living should be" Bozeman sings in the beautifully noisy guitar rock of "I Have Been Everywhere...". In "Black Books", a mournful and quiet piano track, the themes of resignation and coming to terms with human faults are even more apparent; "I can’t go on/I was born to write love songs/but the voice still on the phone says/“we become what we become/give up, just give in/let them shape you as they wish/don't scream don't shout!/be the lamb as it’s led out”. On "Biography - Autobiography", however, Bozeman acknowledges the hope and beauty of his Christian faith; "I found a place with you my friend at the wedding feast/now I can sing/I sing with thee"
Lyrically and musically, Luxury don't waste a single minute on Health and Sport
, there is not a moment on the album that feels unnecessary. Were it not for the 10 minutes of melodic noise on the opener ("Shake More Hands, Give More Hugs") that is probably not for everyone, Health and Sport
would be a perfect album. Although Luxury's lyrics are written from a Christian perspective and often make use of biblical references, Bozeman's mastery in the area of songwriting is something that can be appreciated by anyone, particularly fans of writers such as T.S. Elliot or J.D. Salinger, two writers whom Lee claims as influences. Musically, fans of Radiohead, Sonic Youth, The Cure, Low, Blonde Redhead, The Smiths, My Bloody Valentine and so on will find Health and Sport
to be an extremely rich, varied and rewarding listen.
A wide variety of musical and lyrical ideas
Moods range from the uncomfortably depressing to the gorgeously uplifting
Every aspect of the record contributes to a greater product; more than the sum of its parts
Some listeners may find the 10 minute opening track a little daunting or inaccessible
May not appeal to those outside of Christianity
I Have Been Everywhere the Grass is Green, I Have Seen All There is to See
Biography - Autobiography
Final Rating: 5/5
Anyone interested in listening to the album can stream the entire record here; http://www.northernrecords.com/players/health_and_sport_player.htm