The last 2 years have been pretty excellent ones for London-based Boxer Rebellion: in 2009, their second album, ‘Union’, hit #1 on the iTunes UK albums chart and was named Best Alternative Album by iTunes; in 2010, their song ‘Spitting Fire’ appeared in the feature film Going the Distance and the band starred briefly in the film as well. Next week, they release into the wild their third album, ‘The Cold Still’. The album was produced and mixed by Ethan Johns, who has famously worked with the likes of Kings of Leon and Ryan Adams and more recently, on last year’s Tom Jones (‘Praise and Blame’) and Laura Marling (‘I Speak Because I Can’).
It’s no surprise that ‘Step Out of the Car’ (video here) was released as a single, with its melody brightly chugging along, being the most immediate song of all on this album. The problem is, it’s a false advertisement for the rest of the album – people expecting the rest of the album to sound much like that will be disappointed. Opening track ‘No Harm’ is softer and more introspective than ‘Step Out of the Car’, the song that immediately follows it. Maybe rearrangement of the tracks would have helped. Gorgeous instrumentation – particularly evocative tickling of the ivories – frames ‘Cause by the Light’, an atmospheric, nearly 5-minute opus. As expected by the title, ‘Organ Song’ features organ chords, but it sounds like you’re outdoors and breathing in the fresh air, like the scene in Forrest Gump when everyone’s running down a desolate Western highway as Jackson Browne’s ‘Running on Empty’ is playing in the background.
‘Memo’ has a darker rock vibe, which is a good thing. But where is the memorable hook? ‘The Runner’ is upbeat but disappointingly, it’s no ‘Evacuate’. ‘Locked in the Basement’ and ‘Cause for Alarm’ drift like smoke through up and through the air: some people like this kind of vibe, but it doesn’t ring my bells. This album is inevitably going to be compared to the monster ‘Union’ was, and I don’t know if that’s a good thing.
‘The Cold Still’ will be released next Monday, 7 February, on the band’s own label, Absentee Recordings.