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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