Boxer The Horse haven’t been on the music scene all that long when you think about it. Their debut album Would You Please came out in 2010. But they already sound like polished veterans with their great second album. French Residency ups the ante for this band. Some of the instrumentation is much heavier and distorted, but at the same time they have a penchant for irreverent vocals and subject matter. The effect is very jarring, to the point where you can get a pleasant Beatles-esque song immediately turning into an all-out rocker.
The musical arrangements are noteworthy as well. A compositional high point can be seen right at the beginning of the album with “Community Affair.” The aforementioned distorted, fuzzy guitar opens…
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… up the song, but the chorus features carefully articulated notes and the ringing of bells. It’s also got a bizarre yet imagery-filled lyric: “It’s not impossible to reach nirvana when you’re sleeping with piranhas in Brazil.” I personally might have some trouble doing that.
“Pretty Bloody” is also fairly complex. While it takes a rather subdued tone for most of the song’s duration, the song suddenly goes off like a rocket for the last thirty seconds, making you wonder if you’re even listening to the same song.
And if you’re not already being blown away by the musical structure, the delivery of lead singer Jeremy Gaudet may surprise you. One song, “Karen Silkwood,” named after the union activist who mysteriously died, begins “I’m in the car where Karen Silkwood was killed/Texas ranger won’t you marry me still?” The two lines should not belong together, but somehow they work. Or take “Tough Luck” which is another soft song that casually mentions that there’s too much cocaine and that people are always “On the Moon.”
In “Bridge to the U.S.A.” Boxer the Horse almost become the Ramones. The song is frantic and rocking, and it’s thrilling to hear the band go all out. Another strange addition to the album is “Me & Steve McQueen,” a song that’s not even two minutes with minimal instrumentation and reverbed vocals.
French Residency as a package is an oddity, no doubt, but it’s an oddity that is thoroughly entertaining.