No band in recent memory has matured more between its first and second albums than Lucky Boys Confusion. The group's 2001 major label debut, Throwing the Game, was an interesting mix of influences ranging from reggae to power pop, highlighted by a simple thematic undertone of smoking, drinking, and having a good time. Harmless fun for the most part, it was a recording that added to the Boys' loyal and growing fan base. Hidden behind the numerous 420 references, however, were keen senses of musicianship and willingness to experiment. The band's new release, Commitment, finds the Boys pushing the creative envelope and tapping into their reservoir of potential with impressive results.
Lucky Boys' growth spurt is similar to that of the embryonic Red Hot Chili Peppers. Initially known solely as a fun loving party band, the Peppers grew into a sophisticated musical entity on the heels of Anthony Kiedis's development as a talented vocalist from his funky white boy rap beginnings. The difference between the two bands' growth stages is sizable however; it took the Peppers seven years to evolve from their enjoyable, but limited self titled album to the hugely successful Blood Sugar Sex Majik. Lucky Boys have progressed as far in just a couple of years.
Over the course of two LBC albums, lead singer Stubhy has demonstrated a chameleon-like ability to change vocal gears at will; from his early Kiedis-esque efforts on Throwing the Game's "Child's Play" and "3 to 10" to the fluidity of "Fred Astaire", Stubhy boasts an even greater range on Commitment. He displays equal comfort and confidence belting out the energized pop of "Closer to Our Graves", going head to head with Half Pint on "Sunday Afternoon", or employing surprising silkiness on "South Union" and "Ordinary". He even takes a moment to indulge in a bit of fast paced techno screech on the powerful "You Weren't There".
Stubhy's contributions notwithstanding, the band is grounded by a fine rhythm section and generally inventive guitar and keyboard work. The result is an amalgam of sound elements that are difficult to define, yet easy to recognize. Commitment's title track is reminiscent of Sublime mixed with a trace of Queens of the Stone Age; the Half Pint collaboration brings back memories of UB40's cover of "Red Red Wine", while "Champions" bears a hint of early reggae inspired Clash.
More than simply an exercise in cutting and pasting, Commitment is an extremely well done pop album. The Boys' writing has progressed past the beer bash chronicling phase and is now entering deep water with the thought provoking "Mr. Wilmington" and "Something to Believe In". This is not to say that they still can't rock the house, as the hit single "Hey Driver" will assuredly light up any party.
It will be interesting to watch LBC's path to success, as they are still on the fringe of mainstream popularity. That is not necessarily a bad thing, since the band has nurtured a small legion of followers on Midwestern college campuses that is quickly spreading. Dave Matthews established himself much the same way on the university circuit, and now grosses tens of millions of dollars in sales and tour revenue.
Obviously there is quite a way to go for the Boys to reach the lofty commercial heights attained by Matthews or the Chili Peppers, but by being good, and lucky, the band is sure to have breakout success in the near future.
Keep LBC on the watch page, as 2004 may be their year...