8.6 BEST NEW RECORD
Velvet Blue Music / 2017
Maybe one of the reasons Lee Bozeman has been preoccupied with the body over the course of his career as frontman and lyricist of Luxury is that he's felt its fragility. In the trailer for the forthcoming documentary about the band, there's camcorder video from 1995 of a battered young Bozeman laid up in a hospital bed following the horrific crash of the group's tour bus. At another moment in the trailer the band's drummer Glenn Black breaks down crying as he recounts hearing Bozeman's agonized screams as the hospital doctors went to work on him. Bozeman tells the story from a cool remove: "...almost immediately they started cutting into my sides - they were inserting chest tubes. It's a kind of unique pain that I'd never experienced before." But while the tour bus disaster might have acquainted him with the body’s capacity for pain, his new solo EP The Majesty of the Flesh dwells on another capacity: pleasure.
The Majesty of the Flesh is Bozeman's first proper solo release (all previous efforts used the moniker All Things Bright and Beautiful), and while the perennial comparisons to Morrissey and The Smiths are still apt, the EP's four diverse tracks have Bozeman operating far afield of Luxury's usual wheelhouse. "The Sound of the Orchestra" for example, builds upon a groundwork of metallic drum machine, and the gorgeous "I Am My Beloved" paints its sensuous portrait of courtship with insistent strings and a warm blur of finger-picked guitar.
An Orthodox priest now serving a parish in Waxahachie, Texas (the album cover is a shot of his green-and-gold vestments) Bozeman's meditations are vigorously Christian while being provocatively allusive - the aforementioned "I Am My Beloved" portrays the premature consummation of a marriage with metaphors that would make a florist blush: "And we married too soon/Couldn’t wait until June... The pistil is brittle, the sepal all bruised". Similarly, the EP’s bombastic post-punk title track has the artist raising a glass to Dionysian carnality ("Out in the woods in the heart of the night/Giving names to the stars in the sky/We ran in the nude/Barbarian mood!"), joyously extolling what the French call la petite mort.
But The Majesty of the Flesh’s high point is the lumbering, six-minute masterpiece “Nice Touch”, where Bozeman’s scathing assessment of the social, religious, and political landscape is wedded to the menacing groan of a saxophone and bass synth. He seems disgusted with contemporary society’s performative facade, with a world where deep convictions are donned and discarded as appearances demand (“They say that money is a nice touch/They say that outrage is a nice touch/They say that a Bible is a nice touch/You don’t need to read it, it won’t mean much”). The song's chorus is a reactionary spasm against that nihilism, a statement of hope in the sublime and the true: “But what do they know?/Maybe someone had a vision of God/What do they know?/Maybe I’m human, maybe I’m loved”.
Bozeman finds traces of the divine in great art, too - on the same chorus, he sings “But what do they know?/Maybe someone saw Olympia”. That’s a reference to painter Édouard Manet’s famous nude, continuing the EP’s constant celebration of the physical. But it’s a celebration undercut by the body’s aforementioned fragility and its foregone doom. Even on the title track, a song about awakening anew to bodily pleasure, the coda makes its insufficiency crystal clear. The riotous guitar and drums fall away, replaced by an elegiac piano as Bozeman intones, “Oh, the majesty of the flesh... It’s an idol we made, a glorious mess” - followed by the only words there are left to say, straight from the Apostle Paul: “Who can save us from this body of death?”