The Boxer Rebellion - Union

A strong return for a band that has truly had to fight their way to get back here.

Four years removed from the release of their debut record, ‘Exits’ (released on Alan McGee’s imprint Poptones), London’s The Boxer Rebellion are back, sounding galvanized and more inspired than ever on their self-released follow-up ‘Union’. It’s been a long road back for the band, which fought of sluggish sales, health problems, and the collapse of their label, forcing them to do it all on their own this time (which might be alluded to with the albums title), and they sound all the better for it, reinvigorated and determined to make something of their opportunity. The music reflects that sense of urgency as well, with each note and lyric imbued with passion and a sense that they might never get the chance to do this again.

‘Flashing Red Light Means Go’ gets the record off to a roaring, anthemic start, with frontman Nathan Nicholson’s soaring falsetto ushering in a driving chorus that grips the listener and never really lets go until the album is finished. ‘Move On’ is a bit too plodding at first, and fails to fully capitalize on the momentum built up by the opening track. The emphatic coda is a nice flourish, but the song just takes too long to get there. The propulsive lead single (and iTunes global download success story) ‘Evacuate’, and certainly sounds like a hit should, but, like hits often do, doesn’t represent the best of what the band has to offer. The guitars of Nicholson and Todd Howe certainly push the song forward, matching the pounding drums of Piers Hewitt, but there’s not enough new ground broken by the song to remain compelling.

The first stylistic downshift on the record comes with the acoustic ballad ‘Soviets’, and this plaintive approach serves the band well, with Nicholson’s pleas of forgiveness giving the track an air of remorse and an honesty that rings true. ‘Spitting Fire’ treads a bit close to Snow Patrol territory, but maintains a taut energy that allows the short track to soar. ‘Misplaced’ has a Coldplay-esque sound to it, especially at the beginning, but as the six minute song builds, the band finds their own method and style as the track eventually coalesces into a swirling emotional coda. The subdued, electronic elegance of ‘The Gospel Of Goro Adachi’ succeeds because the band is willing to take chances with their approach and form, sounding a bit like Radiohead in the fade out, but still maintaining their own identity with subtle technical flourishes and spirited sonic experiments.

Both ‘These Walls Are Thin’ and ‘Semi-Automatic’ are a bit stale, and lack the vitality of the rest of the record. ‘Forces’ has a familiar sound to it that prevents it from being as fresh as it’s trying to be, but still pulses with a dynamic energy that resonates well. The album closes with the wistful and stirring ‘Silent Movie’ that seems to be packed with all of the emotion of the journey the band has been on for the last four years. It’s a fitting end to a record that hopefully finds The Boxer Rebellion the audience they deserve, and represents a strong return for a band that has truly had to fight their way to get back here.

Tags: The Boxer Rebellion, Reviews, Album Reviews

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