The Boxer Rebellion | The Garage, London

The Garage, London

The Boxer Rebellion are better known for their business model than their riffs. They saw their second album, Union, debut at No 1 on the US iTunes alternative chart on its digital release in January. But the London four-piece then fell foul of British chart rules that, until September, barred download-only album releases from the Top 40. Last month, the physical record was finally released, financed not by a label but by music retail chain HMV.

It's ironic that the band appear such maverick anti-corporate rebels, as their music is mainstream enough to fit snugly on any major label roster. The Boxer Rebellion formed eight years ago, inspired by the sonic possibilities being explored at the time by Radiohead, but their own output falls closer to the mildly melancholic, formulaically dramatic mope-rock churned out by Coldplay and Snow Patrol.

Clean-cut Tennessee-born frontman Nathan Nicholson seems to epitomise their failings. He looks the part and strikes all of the textbook rock poses, but there is an absence of conviction that resonates through their would-be portentous guitar anthems. The Boxer Rebellion are so intent on sounding profound and meaningful that the only impression that emerges from the swirling, atmospheric riffs and frenetic drumming is of a band trying too hard.

Evacuate – their imminent single, which sold more than half-a-million downloads globally in a week when released online in January – sounds like U2's Elevation after a slight makeover. Generally, they suggest either Editors trying to crack America, or Stereophonics with extra effects pedals. For the Boxer Rebellion to turn all their valiant efforts into success, they will need to begin making music as original and provocative as its method of delivery.


Ian Gittins

The GuardianTramp

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