Kele - The Boxer
Wed 30th Jun, 2010 Music Reviewsin
There were a ton of Bloc Party fans who weren’t particularly thrilled by the prospect of lead singer Kele Okereke putting the math-rock kings on hiatus and pursuing a solo career. We’ve seen this happen to post-Y2K bands before with varying levels of success, from Brandon Flowers to Julian Casablancas. The general feeling is usually that the record is good, but nothing on the band from whence the singer came. But then, Kele is no ordinary frontman, and this is no ordinary solo record.
Bloc Party may have always had a dance edge to their sound (which accounts for the popularity of their remixes), but Okereke ramps up the synths and brings on the beats to devastating effect on an album that really has very few low points. This is not a vanity project or a collaborative wank – it’s Kele flexing his songwriting muscle and it sounds damn good. He’s helped by the enlistment of some real aural masters – Spank Rock’s XXXChange and particularly, Cassius’s Philippe Zdar – in production, but the ideas and the execution are unmistakably his own.
Ever since he confirmed doubts regarding his sexuality, Kele’s been far more willing to avoid the abstract and go personal. You could hear it on Bloc Party’s Intimacy, but on The Boxer, it’s all the more noticeable. Okereke isn’t talking about London, or England or the kids anymore. He’s writing (and dancing) about himself. It’s easy to pick on songs like Rise, which read almost as a self-directed memo (“You are stronger than you think”) before busting out the heaviest grooves this side of The Presets. But there are very few people who won’t love this.
‘Crossover’; a term way overused in the indie game, but with this album, I reckon Kele’s done it.
The Boxer is out on Wichita/Cooperative Music through Shock.