It seems The Boxer Rebellion are a resilient bunch. Loss of family,a disintegrated label deal and a brush with death are all but bumps on theroad for lead singer Nathan Nicholson and company, who formed the band following the loss of his mother. Miraculously they’re soldiered on to create theirsophomore album Union in spite of industry issues and Nicholson’s own hospitalisation.
His tenacity in recovering from five hours of surgery following a potentially fatal burst appendix appears to have manifested itself in opener Exits. A penchant for sweeping, falsettic vocal runs andenormous, reverberated guitars calls Takk-eraSigur Rós to mind.
As such, there is an abundance of climactic drama and hauntingsonic landscapes throughout Union. Like the stellar work created bytheir Icelandic counterparts, The Boxer Rebellion are equipped with anthemic qualities. In addition to Nicholson’s skills the band also finds room forthe restless, complex drumming of Piers Hewitt and the squalling guitar of co-founder Todd Howe.Together they infuse a perpetual sense of motion towards a cathartic culmination.
Maybe the band’s capacity to buildand release tension mirrors their ability to rise above adversity. Aseach enthralling, expansive chorus arrives, as it does in Flashing RedLight Means Go and Evacuate, The Boxer Rebellion provide striking musicalrepresentation of the vanquishing of the trials of life. Every dramatic chord progression,such as the one beneath repeated calls of the title of Move On, tugsat the gut. These are the sounds of Nicholson, freshly emerged from thehospital, throwing wide his arms and releasing beautiful victory from his rebuilt belly.
The proper physical release of Union, like the versionreleased by the band this past January on iTunes, is not without itsfaults. The enthralling Semi-Automatic, whose melody is a dead ringerfor that of Chris Isaak‘s Wicked Game, and the electronicfoundation of The Gospel Of Goro Adachi provide welcomevariety to the album which, given that those sweeping vocals becomerather indistinguishable as the album progresses, tends to verge onrepetitive. And, if we’re honest, The Boxer Rebellion’s sound is not particularly groundbreaking.
But in spite of such minor shortcomings, Union as a whole makesit hard not to root for a group determined to march on to great success in their own way. Thankfully it’s by virtue of their musicianship andsongwriting ability, and not just their encounters with multipledevastating tribulations, that make The Boxer Rebellion a band to admire.