Date of Release: 13-May-2013
Widescreen epics like U2 and Coldplay, only better!
The Boxer Rebellion is an international group of musicians that coalesced in the UK just as Britpop was turning the corner into the 21st century. Over the course of an EP and three full-length albums, they have developed a signature sound. It’s often described as moody and atmospheric, especially on their 2011 album The Cold Still.
The band reportedly spent much of 2012 and early 2013 holed up in their London rehearsal space. The result is a wonderful new album called Promises, which seems intent to reach for the musical stratosphere at every turn. The listener’s first clue that something is different this time is the artwork. The once-dominant earthtones and shadowy greys have been replaced by beautiful blues and fluffy white clouds. The diver on the front cover is leaning forward, poised to plunge into the great unknown. The metaphor is maybe a little too obvious, but the ambitious new music within more than compensates.
Lead-off single “Diamonds” encapsulates everything that is great about lazy critical shorthand like “widescreen” and “soaring”. Imagine the effortless melodicism of Coldplay, filtered through the languid pacing of The Verve’s best work. The musical quest for something more continues on up-tempo tracks like “Fragile” and “Always”, all pulsing rhythms and glorious choruses. Like a lot of UK albums, the front half of the record has been packed with the potential hit singles in rapid-fire succession.
I particularly like the dry, martial drums underpinning “Take Me Back”, “Keep Moving” and the title track, driving these songs with an unstoppable sense of momentum. The yearning ballad “You Belong To Me” harkens back to earlier Boxer Rebellion songs like “Both Sides are Even”. With its simple piano motif and falsetto vocals, this cinematic song seems destined to be heard soundtracking a poignant, broken-heartedly romantic moment in an upcoming indie film.
With a little luck, maybe one day The Boxer Rebellion will garner a little more North American radio play and acquire the arena-rocking touring profile of their UK contemporaries. For now, let’s enjoy our little secret.