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Alone In The Ring
on 26 June 2010
Kele Okereke has deemed it right to take some time off from
Bloc Party to make a solo album and 'The Boxer' is the result.
The eleven tracks in the collection are so good that I find
myself wondering if his sabbatical might turn into something
a tad longer lasting. The spotlight beckons methinks!
'The Boxer' has a sound which is both distinctive and coherent
but shot through with Mr Okereke's mercurial magpie proclivities.
Discombobulating electro-art-pop with the power to both dither
and dance. The music is stronger on rhythmic structure than melodic
content ( he hasn't yet figured out how to pin down a memorable tune
but then again perhaps he doesn't want to!)
His voice, truth-be-told, is an instrument with considerable limitations
but even though a little shaky and tonally insecure he, none-the-less,
manages to imbue his performances with an elusively vulnerable quality.
Things kick off in kookie style with the 'Full Metal Jacket' parade ground
call/response vocal of 'Walk Tall'. Underpinned by a big booming and
zooming synth line it is as much a call to battle as it is a declaration
It is possible to jump up-and-down and from side-to-side to the jauntily
wobbly beats of 'On The Lam'. The curious voice treatments make the
track sound as though it might be being performed by a group of
small woodland animals (I'm thinking chipmunks and weasels) in a
sunny summer clearing.
Single 'Tenderoni' is a bit of an old-fashioned rave and nothing wrong with that!
'Everything You Wanted' made an immediately positive impression.
The spirit of a particular moment in the eighties has been captured and
preserved in the aspic of its splendid percussion and vocal arrangement.
The three minute long little gem 'Unholy Thoughts' (the spirit of Joy Division
seems not much more than a hair's breadth away!) makes a strong mark by
virtue of its stripped-down simplicity. Economy and energy rolled into one.
'All The Things I Could Never Say' takes a while to find its way. The nervously
stuttering synth ostinato holds the shape of the composition as Mr Okereke's
plaintive lament builds slowly and convincingly above it. The song builds to
a restrained anthemic conclusion of curiously affecting intensity.
Final track 'Meet In The Middle' begins with a fragile acapella vocal line
which gradually evolves into a far more substantial thematic idea full of
chiming chords, echoing drums and a tune which had me thinking about
Simple Minds for more than a moment or two (it's been many, many more
moments since I had cause to think about them at all!) and which brings
the project to a moderately rousing conclusion.
Mr Okereke may not be a contender for heavyweight musical champion of
the universe but 'The Boxer' is a solo debut of which he can be justly proud.