Mainly Genius


Review: The Boxer Rebellion – The Cold Still

Some of you may remember The Boxer Rebellion as they’ve featured fairly heavily on these pages over the last year or so. 2009’s Union was (and still is) a triumph beyond their years and deserved more than it’s meagre US chart position of 82. Creating a sound somewhere between Sigur Ros, Coldplay and the edge of the universe, the follow-up was always going to be an interesting affair and after their stint in Hollywood (writing for last year’s just-above-average rom-com Going the Distance), my anticipation was a mix of intrigue and excitement laced with hope.

So, a few days ago, after approximately 2 or 3 listens to The Cold Still, I was just about ready to fire up the typewriter and pen a fairly derogatory and negative few paragraphs about ‘how the album is a backward step and they’ve sold out blah blah blah.’ But sitting here a few days later (and quite a few more listens later) I’m in a much better and more informed position. And that my friends, can make all the difference.

To say this album is a grower is an understatement. Coming across The Boxer Rebellion via Union (and backing that up with equally as good debut Exits), gave me an expectation of what to expect and initially, some disappointment when it never materialised. But this is a band that has grown up somewhat in the last two years and the difference can be heard from start to finish.

Opener No Harm is ‘classic’ Boxer Rebellion, beginning with a slow, thoughtful piano and building to a hook of epic proportions – it’s a great way to kick off the album and a bit of nerve settler for geeky fans like me. Then comes first single Step out of the Car and thats where things start to go a bit off-piste.

Beginning with chunky bass chords and pounding drums that have hints of the ‘heavy-pop’ ‘band’ Pendulum, and feature very little of the atmosphere we’ve come to expect, it develops into an angry, face-paced and ultimately brilliant song. A Combination of subtle synths and fuzzy guitars form a razor sharp backdrop for vocalist Nathan Nicholson’s rage-filled melody.

And there’s plenty more of the good stuff. Organ Song is a driving and unexpectedly upbeat Mumford and Sons folky number. Locked In The Basement is a world-weary and beautifully orchestrated return to their real strengths and Memo is perhaps the tune that sums up the album best. Whilst it’s most definitely still the Boxer Rebellion, things aren’t so predictable this time. Rather than the slow build to a crashing crescendo, the powerful ‘finish’ is never allowed to overcome the melancholy in the song and Nicholson’s vocal is always the overriding and defining feature.

It seems that this time round, The Boxer Rebellion have re-assessed their priorites. Once their focus was on big choruses and crashing crescendos; tumbling drums and soaring vocals. All that still remains in some form or another, but they seem softened. The blow lessened somehow.

They have sold out, in a ‘lets climb the charts a little more’ kind of way, but the trouble is they’ve done it so brilliantly and with such understated quality that it’s difficult not to be taken in, and not to appreciate the growth.

Overall, I’m still not totally sold. In my eyes Union will forever remain The Boxer Rebellion’s OK Computer, unsurpassable, inimitable and really fucking catchy. But The Cold Still is still a worthy addition to the catalogue and, whilst it may take you a while to fully embrace, once you get to know it, take it out for a few drinks and generally give it some love, you’ll find the rewards are significant. It may not have the sudden impact of it’s predecessors, it’s still a top record and has more than the occasional flash of brilliance.

If you’ve not heard the Boxer Rebellion, start with Union. But if you have then you can do far worse than to indulge in The Cold Still.

And as a bonus this week, you can grab a copy of a free 2 song EP featuring a live version of Step Out of the Car.Sadly no longer available, howevr you can watch them perform the song on Letterman over here.

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Visit The Boxer Rebellion 

Buy The Cold Still from HMV or iTunes

Add them on Twitbook, Facespace or Mybo

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Below is the aforementioned Memo – a slow burner but a song full of emotion – and the stand-out nerve settler, No Harm. Also, recently added because it still continues to grow on me, is Step Out of the Car.

The Boxer Rebellion – No Harm

The Boxer Rebellion – Memo

The Boxer Rebellion – Step Out of the Car

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[…] 9. The Boxer Rebellion – The Cold Still (Released 7th February, full review here) […]

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