A measured, beautifully crafted album that signals an exciting new dawn.
Mike Haydock 2009-09-04
The UK music industry is dying, we’re told. And fast. But here’s what that really means: the days of whacking profits that record label fat cats can stuff in their Savile Row suit pockets are over. The musicians – the music – will always prevail.
The Boxer Rebellion serve as a perfect barometer for these times. After carefully building a large following with countless live shows and a superb first album, Exits, released on Alan McGee’s Poptones label back in 2005, the band were suddenly homeless when the imprint folded shortly after their debut’s release.
That could so easily have been that, but The Boxer Rebellion refused to be beaten – even singer Nathan Nicholson’s burst appendix couldn’t stop them. The band continued to tour, spreading the word and gradually airing new material. Scraping funds together, they were finally able to commit the new songs to tape, and the band self-released the follow-up, Union, back in January this year as a digital-only download through iTunes.
The fact that Union has now arrived as a real, hard-copy release hints at the band’s digital success: the debut single from Union, Evacuate, became the first ever global iTunes Single of the Week, and was downloaded 560,000 times in its first week. Union then became the first digital-only release by an unsigned band to land in the Billboard Top 100 Albums Chart.
None of this, of course, would have been possible if the music wasn’t good. Union is that rare beast – an indie record with huge commercial potential, crammed with arena-filling melodies, that also wriggles with complexities and revels in brooding atmospheres.
Nicholson’s versatile vocals swoop through registers, in low murmurs, angst-ridden cries and graceful falsettos that scrape the sky. Shuffling rhythms borrowed from The National bubble beneath him, while ricocheting guitars slowly emerge from the darkness and take flight. It’s Mew-meets-Editors, but conveyed with delicate brushstrokes.
Union is a measured, beautifully crafted album that signals an exciting new dawn for The Boxer Rebellion – one where they’re in charge of their own destiny.