Since bursting onto the scene in ’05 with the stunning Silent Alarm Bloc Party have been one of the more credible and interesting acts of the new millennium – Kele Okereke’s incisive lyrics and beautifully inimitable voice fused with the raw sounds of post-rock melodies and moods developed so skilfully by the rest of the band.
Bloc Party’s latest effort, Intimacy, divided audiences with its challenging new direction: their usual sound merged and warped by electronic influence, producing a record that may have alienated some listeners, but managed to retain their usual originality and danceable, intelligent tunes.
So it’s clear Bloc Party, and Kele Okereke in particular, are not unfamiliar with the scene. Listen to Compliments from Silent Alarm, and Zephyrus from Intimacy, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.
News of Kele Okereke splitting off from the band, dropping his last name and working on his own electronic side project was greeted with much excitement. Then came whispers and then confirmation of tours, and everything seemed grand and exciting.
So how it managed to end this badly, I am still at a loss to explain. All the signs are there that alternative-dance/electro-house record The Boxer was set to be a brilliant solo debut for Okereke – so, what happened?
Walk Tall is a passable, vaguely dubstep-styled tune, with a buzzing bassline that wouldn’t go astray at a decent club night, and there are some interesting attempts at originality here – On the Lam features Okereke’s voice pitch-shifted to the voice of unrecognisability, and manages to sound reasonably compelling (if oddly feminime), but ruined by a synth melody and bad female backing vocals that sounds like they belong in bad nineties trance.
And herein lies the main failing of The Boxer – its complete lack of inspiration and originality. Tired synth lines pulled straight from dancefloor bangers (first single Tenderoni is appallingly uninspired, featuring a melody that I swear to God was taken straight from a Deadmau5 track and a boring four-to-the-floor beat), complete with perfectly ordinary backing vocals and uninspired, unoriginal beats. The less out-there, late-night listening-oriented moments of the album, such as Rise and The New Rules, are flat and uninteresting, gloriously lacking in any interesting hooks or moments to engage with the listener, and spiralling away into forgettable mediocrity at their ends.
It’s not all terrible, however. All the Things I Could Never Say is a standout track – a moment of reflection on a record that tries to be too up-in-your-face, a gently melancholic piece that comes on slow, with Okereke’s vocals washing over. Hints of influence from Bloc Party are heard on Unholy Thoughts, with its guitar melody and stark, poetic lyrics that make it more reminiscent of Bloc Party’s work than his.
Ultimately, The Boxer is incredible only in how disappointing it manages to be, especially in the face of the talent that Kele Okereke has previously displayed leading Bloc Party to fame. Do yourself a favour: don’t bother. Instead, go to the alternative-music section of your local record store and pick up Silent Alarm by Bloc Party. Believe me, you’re far, far better off.
What did you think of The Boxer, if you’ve given it a spin? Leave a comment! Is there something you’d like reviewed by the dirtyRadio team? Let us know! Give us a shoutout on the dirtyRadio Facebook fanpage, or chuck us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Keep an eye out for more reviews over the next few weeks, too: up on the hitlist are the latest efforts by the Chemical Brothers and Trentëmøller. Dig it.
Full link to the Kele – The Boxer page