The Boxer Rebellion - Union (Own Label)

David Spencer | Saturday, 25 July 2009

The Boxer Rebellion - Union (Own Label)

It's four years since The Boxer Rebellion had writers at Kerrang! And NME all excited, and you may wonder why after such a well-received debut has taken so long to follow up. But after their record company went tits up, singer Nathan Nicholson fell seriously ill during a support tour with the Killers. He ended up on life support. Naturally, his and the band's future was seriously questioned.

Now the group is back with a widescreen vision of rock that they hope will plant them firmly back in the industry's focus. This is the sort of music that lends itself to epic shots of mountainous landscape and to large arenas. Fans already know what to expect, having seen the album released digitally earlier this year. But for the uninitiated, what's in store?

Well, they don't sound like a London-based band, with their type of music more typical of the American artists, and this may leave them falling between two stools, unsure of what they're trying to do. Early comparisons with Cooper Temple Clause and Kasabian can be forgotten - now you're thinking more The Airborne Toxic Event and even Editors.

Nicholson's vocal is also at times reminiscent of Brian Molko of Placebo, just less feminine. His voice soars above heavy drums and soaring guitars almost all the way through, with only the odd break for tracks like 'Soviets', where an acoustic guitar takes centre stage.

A good reference point is 'Evacuate', the first single, which scored as a big hit on iTunes, getting 560,000 downloads in just a week. However, it's not the best thing here, so if you like that, you'll definitely warm to 'Move On' and 'Flashing Red Light Means Go'. The latter opens the album and states their ambitions to great effect, with a jungle drums into and Edge-like guitars throughout.

The indulgent and long 'Misplaced' is less good, with 'Spitting Fire' and 'These Walls Are Thin' all the better for being shorter. 'Semi Automatic', with its rougher edge and deeper vocal, is a sign of what could be achieved with more direction.

With celebrity fans like Simon Pegg helping their profile, The Boxer Rebellion could bounce back from a tough four years, and there are plenty of signs here that healthy band members permitting, there could be a lot more to come.

Rating: 3/5