Review : Kele Okereke - The Boxer
MusicomhIt's become almost voguish for members of bands to reveal that their music tastes are somewhat removed from the music they make with their mates. In nearly every interview he ever did, Bloc Party's Kele Okereke (he's dropped the surname, Madonna-style, for this debut solo release) seemed to mention his love of modern R&B or dance music, and though his band's output did dabble in dance music especially, it never quite matched up to the bluster.
The Boxer should change all that. Co-produced by Spank Rock's XXXChange, it's an album that cherry-picks the best elements of the current dance scene - garage, distorted electro, house - and moulds them around some of the best songs of Okereke's career so far. For the ardent Bloc Party fan this shouldn't be a problem, but the casual listener may find the opening salvo of Walk Tall and On The Lam hard to take. On the former, over skittering beats and echoey drum noises, Kele delivers an impassioned, effect-laden vocal that sets out his stall from the off: "Forget where you've been / Cut your ties to the past and wave it goodbye". It's not quite, "thanks for the last few years guys, it's been fun, but I'm bored now", but it's not far off.
If Walk Tall hints at a new sound (and those giant, hoover-esque synths aren't your typical indie-rock affair), then On The Lam delivers it wholesale. Over a bouncy garage beat reminiscent of an MJ Cole production and with Okereke's voice pitch-shifted to sound like a woman, it's an unsettling, mildly confusing but breathtaking highlight. The early triptych of curveballs is cemented with single Tenderoni, which fuses a four to the floor beat to a brilliant chorus and even manages to overcome the fact it sounds a lot like Wiley's Wearing My Rolex....full text
BbcWhen, late last autumn, UK indie rock imperators Bloc Party decided to take a sabbatical, the prospect of making new music was the last thing on leader Kele Okereke’s mind. Instead, he bought himself his first apartment and signed up for kick-boxing lessons – like you do. Clearly, straight knee thrusts and wallpaper swatch books had only a transient appeal as he was soon ensconced in an EMI studio, plugging in unfamiliar synths and programming drum machines for the first time in his life.
Ratcheting up proceedings by collaborating with Alex Epton, aka Brooklyn remix maestro/Spank Rock producer XXXchange, Okereke’s debut proffers 10 robust tracks that owe more to the dancefloor than the indie rock stage (a trend already discernable on Bloc Party’s 2008 album Intimacy, to be fair). Doffing a hat to the likes of Gary Numan, TV On the Radio, M.I.A. and Bodyrox along the way, this is, for the most part, an album of leftfield electro/techno pop with a yearning, ruminative, songwriterly soul. Okereke’s lyrics dwell nakedly on matters emotional and existential and any song that can render an anthemic chorus from the phrase: “You’re making me older / You’re making me ill” – as All the Things I Could Never Say does – is clearly not to be confused with mirror ball escapism, even if elsewhere (On the Lam, Tenderoni) things err unashamedly toward happy hardcore.
It’s not all mechanical beats, oscillating sequencers and Auto-Tune voices, however. Everything You Wanted, with its stirring chorus and one-note piano, might be prime Bloc Party; Unholy Thoughts welds a Peter Hook-esque bassline to a breathless pop-rock chassis (part Depeche Mode, part early Talk Talk), and New Rules is a pared-back essay for muted electronic string arpeggios, the disembodied voice of a telephone operator and a sweet, high octave duet vocal from Jodie Scantlebury. ...full text
ClashmusicWhen Bloc Party forayed into the world of dance music it often felt like something was lacking, a reluctance to fully commit perhaps. Any suggestion that lead singer Kele Okereke may have been responsible however are immediately dismissed within seconds of his solo record ‘The Boxer’ as hi-NRG rhythms and sweet syncopated beats propel themselves skywards.
Moving to Berlin and immersing himself in the underground dance culture has benefited Kele greatly, as has teaming up with producers XXXChange and Hudson Mohawke. Together they create a combination of glossy electro and wobbly two-step hitting euphoric heights with the glorious ‘On The Lam’. ...full text
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