Plumbiferous Media

The Boxer – Kele

Jun 24th 2010
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The Boxer - KeleKele
The Boxer
Score: 30

With main project Bloc Party on hiatus, British indie musician Kele Okereke has focused on his own music, releasing his first solo album, The Boxer, on Monday. With The Boxer, Okereke takes the indie-electronic aesthetic of Bloc Party and mixes it with a strong dance influence for a buzzing, electric sound. Unfortunately, this ends up more disjointed than anything else, which, combined with the fact that The Boxer never manages to step past a fairly pedestrian approach to its wealth of genres, does the album very little good.

Okereke makes a number of fairly odd musical decisions with The Boxer. The first tracks especially are laden with an interesting mixing job that gives the tracks the same quality they would have as if they were being played through over-sized speakers at a rave or large concert. While it is certainly arguable that this gives the album a certain liveliness, it’s primarily a cheap effect that could easily be replicated one one’s own if desired, and it has the additional effect of removing any sense of richness from the album.

Okereke’s vocals are as strongly-accented and emotional as they’ve ever been on his work with Bloc Party. Unfortunately, on The Boxer they’re not used nearly as well. Instead of being allowed to create their own presence within the music, it seems as if they’ve been forced into it, which creates a rather jarring sound. The best moments, such as second-half track “Rise” are reminiscent of Okereke’s normal strength, but for the most part, the album is noticeably weak.

Okereke is joined by several backing vocalists throughout The Boxer, none of whom leave enough of an impact on the music to be especially notable past their short presence – they’re used more as effects than as any sort of integral part of the music. The lyrics are used in much the same way, as on The Boxer Okereke has shifted away from the reminiscing that was so common on his earlier work towards more dance-friendly repetition (present but not ever-present in his work with Bloc Party). Given the sort of music Okereke has created with this album, this sort of lyrical approach isn’t surprising – but there are only so many times you can hear Okereke sing “Walk tall” or “Tenderoni” on the tracks of those names before it gets very old indeed.

In all fairness, Okereke has produced an extremely diverse album. At the same time, that’s about the best that can be said for The Boxer. The album moves from the overly dance-infected opening tracks to what could perhaps best be described as Placebo at a rave, and later into indie-rock dance music, as little sense as that makes. Other tracks, completely unlike the majority of the album, including “New Rules,” are then added. That particular track attempts to move away from the heavy beat of dance music, but clearly strays too far, becoming nothing more than exceedingly boring.

Summed up, The Boxer is, at best, a disappointment. There are very few truly interesting aspects of the album, let alone anything truly good. The lyrics of The Boxer are entirely uncreative, the instrumentals overly creative, to the point where many tracks are simply a convoluted mess of lines, and the vocals are anything but inspired. The Boxer was clearly a risk for Okereke; unfortunately, it was a risk that by no means paid off.

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