Album Review: The Boxer Rebellion – Union

By on Tuesday, 4th August 2009 at 2:00 pm

The Boxer Rebellion - Union (cover)The Boxer Rebellion took a risk in January. Shunning big-wig record labels, the band decided to go alone, releasing their second studio album, ‘Union’, exclusively via iTunes download. Thankfully, the risk paid off. In fact, The Boxer Rebellion proceeded to make press headlines for the next few days. ‘Union’ had somehow brilliantly managed to reach number 1 in the iTunes US Alternative Chart, and was speedily outselling the likes of Kings of Leon and Coldplay. Next month, the band shall be taking their second risk. They’ve just struck a deal with HMV, who, from September 14th onwards, will act as the exclusive seller of the record in physical format. To celebrate the band’s ground breaking upcoming release, TGTF decided to have another listen to ‘Union’ this week..

‘Union’ has an undoubtedly epic soundscape to it from start to finish. ‘Flashing Red Light Means Go’ kicks the album off in an aptly impressive style. Galloping drums lead into frontman, Nathan Nicholson, proclaiming “What’s the use in my advice that you just turn down? Swaying to a serenade, you never hear a sound!”. An acoustic layers over the top, before in come further hypnotic guitar riffs. The vocals start to turn a little Thom Yorke in the chorus as Nicholson heartbreakingly cries out “Tell me why you’re leaving us!”.

It’s an exciting introduction to the album, and leads nicely onto similarly dreamy tracks such as ‘Soviets’, a brooding, gentle number which initially starts with Nicholson singing quietly over an acoustic. Then, before we grow too bored, speeding drums, wavey guitar riffs and heart-wrenchingly beautiful harmonies kick in, shaping the sound into one mesmerizing musical sphere.

Amid the harmonious content, ‘Union’ also showcases a darker side. Nicholson’s voice grows a little more gritty to the backing of heart-racing drums in ‘Evacuate’, while track nine, ‘Forces’, introduces heavier riffs and harsher vocals. Regrettably, this song has weaker lyrics in comparison to the rest of the album (“Forces, dark forces, are everywhere. They won’t stop, they won’t stop, ’till you’re here!”), but the epic guitar solo midway ties the song together nicely.

Other top tracks on the album include the subtly psychedelic, ‘The Gospel of Goro Adachi’. Layers of dreamy vocals alternate alongside each other, while digi-sounding drums beat softly throughout. Meanwhile, the Killers-esque ‘Spitting Fire’ boasts goldenly indie riffs and deep, stomping percussion.

‘Union’ comes to a close with ‘Silent Movie’. They say you should leave the best ’till last, and that’s exactly what The Boxer Rebellion have done here. Gentle, hypnotic vocals open up the track, before in kick (alas quite predictably) those trademark galloping drums. The lyrics are beautifully abstract (“Surface take to the breeze, off hand misdeeds, prudent motherly eye, has passed me by.”), and Nicholson’s voice has the ability to break hearts as he sings them. The song continues to slowly build – ultimately exploding into a mass of heavenly sound consisting of brash cymbal crashes and echoey guitars. Suddenly, however, the song is cut off, and the album is drawn to a close with an eerie 30 seconds of crackling white noise.

One thing I’d criticise about The Boxer Rebellion is the fact that they do not vary much, musically. Nearly every track follows the same concept – fragile vocals opening up the song, before in come some stomping drums, finally leading the track into a climax of wavey guitars and angelic harmonies. Still, ‘Union’ as a complete package is a good’n – even if individual tracks do not stand out on their own.

The perfect album to kick back and relax to this coming September.

You can pre-order ‘Union’ for £9.99 over at, now, or get the MP3s on Amazon right now.

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3 Responses

10:27 am
12th August 2009

Great review and great album!!!

Funny how you use to get tough drums by Piers in his house with his cat, and now your writing reviews for his bands number one album!!!

Small world!

[…] at TGTF we LOVE Boxer Rebellion. Their new album, Union, is frankly amazing – see Jess’ review here. We were fortunate enough to have everything we’ve ever wondered about Boxer Rebellion […]

[…] and the best of the rest: 4) Boxer Rebellion – Union (read review or read the interview) 5) Marmaduke Duke – Duke Pandemonium (read review) 6) Tegan and Sara […]

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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