There are many cases of artists I like with short careers in the 1990's who reunited years later to put out new music. In almost all cases, the new music they release is fine, but doesn’t hold a candle to the music they wrote and recorded when they were active, or “in their prime.”
Luxury is the exception. Over a decade since they last played a show, and 9 years since they released any music, they have put out what is hands-down their best work. This is shocking and stunning, and has me grinning from ear-to-ear.
Another thing about the band’s history: you don’t have to know it. Meaning that this album is also so good and so impressive that the fact that it was Kickstarted and that Luxury has an extensive, fascinating past is irrelevant. If you have followed Luxury their whole career, great! If not, great! It doesn’t matter. If you have never heard the band before, there has not been a better time to listen.
Somehow Luxury, with Trophies, has recorded their tightest, most cohesive, most aggressive, and best album; all about 15 years after I (or anyone) thought possible. What makes this even more impressive is that in the 90's, Luxury was my favorite live band. I saw Luxury in concert about a dozen times from 1995 to 2002, and their energy and fun on stage was unmatched. Somehow without touring or playing live shows, the five members of Luxury were able to write, record, and release their best album (and while all living in different cities).
Luxury is known for their balance between short, high-energy rock songs, and long, dramatic crescendos. Previously Luxury best pulled-off this off on their debut 1995 album, Amazing and Thank You. Luxury’s 2nd and 3rd albums followed the same mold, and all came in relatively quick succession (1997 and 1999).
Their 4th album, Health and Sport, is more sprawling and experimental and at times loses its focus. This is partially due to its length; at 52 minutes it is the longest of Luxury’s discography. It also took years to put together, as Luxury began performing songs from it in 2001 and three of the songs appeared on a split-EP in 2002. The full LP with 10 songs didn’t see the light of day until 2005. The shorter, high-energy rock songs were missing, but the band did create unique musical landscapes that were new to their catalog.
With Trophies, Luxury combines the best elements from all of their previous work, from the raw aggression of 1995's “Flaming Youth Flames On” to the diverse textures of 2005's “Strange Flowers”. There is laser-focus here, and every second of the album’s 42 minutes is perfectly planned and executed.
Musically, Luxury remains guitar-based, but with new tones not found previously in the band’s catalog. As mentioned previously, the album is aggressive, and harder at times (“Courage, Courage”) than at any moment of their past. However, Luxury is primarily melodic, and piano and strings (“Words of Mouth”) also play an important part in increasing the dynamics. And surprisingly the band’s original Brit-pop influence (most notably The Smith’s) is stronger than ever, all-the-while sounding completely natural.
Lyrically Lee Bozeman continues to sing words that require much examination and pondering. From the opening lines of “Ginsberg reading ‘Howl’”, the listener is challenged and provoked. (In this case specifically, it led me to read ‘Howl’ for the first time, a controversial poem written in 1955.) The album ends with its longest song, and also possibly its strongest and most meaningful, “The Gates of Paradise (Give Praise Where Praise is Due)”. The album concludes with Lee repeatedly singing over a simple piano line: “For a while everything was okay”.
Is this the second coming of a 90's band? Yes, in a way. But it is also a great band who it “only” took 20 years to produce their greatest work. In Luxury’s Kickstarter video, Jamey Bozeman comments about the band’s previous recordings, “We all walk away at least a little disgruntled with what we did.” Hopefully this time even the members of the band are satisfied; they should be.
This review was originally published in Turn Off the Radio on Dec. 22, 2014.
Order Trophies here.