3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The Boxer Rebellion - Rarities Volume 1 = 3.5 Stars,
This review is from: B-Sides and Rarities, Vol. 1 (MP3 Download)
"We have never been a band that set out to write a b-side. We have always been a band that strives to write something better than what we have done before. With that in mind, people can listen to these songs as ones that were worked to the full in order to fit on an album, but for one of any number of reasons didn't make it...... The fact that these songs never made it onto an album is irrespective"
The above statement from the multinational members of the London based Boxer Rebellion could be viewed as a slice of high sincerity or a piece of very crafty marketing. Unfortunately it is often the case that the mopping up exercises of B sides and rarities collections rarely transcend the *couple of great tracks versus the high on filler factor". Granted Nathan Nicholson and his chums have rarely let the quality control go southward in their three officially released long players to date and these should be sort out post haste. It does however beg the question that if you are new to the Boxer Rebellion whether you would be best advised to purchase these two "new" CDs comprising some very decent songs at the price of a tenner or fork out a measly £2.95 for their 2009 masterwork "Union" or £1.98 for their cracking debut "Exits" (2005) on Amazon? "Simples" as they say, unless of course you are a connoisseur of the band then there is much in this collection to rouse curiosity and generally enjoy.
Volume 1 (3.5 Stars) of these rarities is almost entirely a snapshot of the band in 2003/2004 and in essence could be seen as as first cousin of "Exits" and includes versions of tracks already on that album such as ever present and wonderful "Watermelon". Opener "Palisade" is a big pounding epic with the trademark indie powerhouse guitars as a backdrop, equally those great and musically bulldozing early singles from various EPs which never made the first album such as the scintillating slow building noise fest of "In Pursuit" (2003) and "Code Red" (2004) are wonderful to hear again, although are they strictly rarities? The price of admission here is clearly achieved with the inclusion of the seven minute plus "In the empire". Yes it does have obvious Radiohead over tones but it is huge rock anthem with a superb Nicholson vocal and the band firing like an Aston Martin DB5. If there is a problem with this album is that as a snapshot in time it captures them at the overture before the main opera stage. As they honed their sound with "Union" and more latterly "The Cold Still" the type of heart on your sleeve, one size fits all Quiet -LOUD template which characterise most of the songs on Volume 1 are replaced by a much more interesting band on the later out takes and rarities of Volume 2 (4 Stars). Thus quite why the brilliant "Broken Glass" was left off any of their albums is a Gordian Knot puzzle of epic proportions with its huge sound and brilliantly hard melodies. As for the lovely acoustic version of "Spitting Fire" it proves that the band should regularly unplug the Fenders and turn to the Yamaha's much more often; the same applies to the ghostly and sublime piano driven version of "Semi Automatic" which this reviewer actually prefers to the original. Finally the nice pop sensibility of "Waiting" is an effective counterpoint to yet another huge anthem such as "Red Tape" which verges on U2 bombast.
So there you have it, two albums which should keep the converted broadly happy although why the whole lot couldn't have been packaged as one album at a knock down price is all a bit odd. The Boxer Rebellion comprising Nathan Nicholson, Adam Harrison, Piers Hewitt and Todd Howe are working on a new album set for release in 2013. Any lover of good music can only offer a sly prayer that it finally brings this excellent band to headlining the main stage at Glastonbury and that they in turn reflect that on the evidence of this album turning down the volume a notch or two often produces a much more powerful set of songs.
B-Sides and Rarities Volume I tracklisting
01. Palisade - 2003
02. You & I - 2003
03. Empty - 2003
04. Watermelon - Single Version 2003
05. Outerspace - 2003
06. Code Red - Single Version 2004
07. Don't Drag Your Dirty Feet - 2003
08. Before Tomorrow - 2004
09. In Pursuit - Single Version 2003
10. In The Empire - 2003
B-Sides and Rarities Volume II tracklisting
01. Broken Glass - 2007
02. Murder Ballad - 2007
03. Spitting Fire - 2010
04. JFKFC - 2005
05. Semi-Automatic - Alternative Version 2010
06. From the Liars - 2005
07. Red Tape - 2007
08. 325 - 2010
09. Waiting - 2006
10. You - 2010