I’ve long been fascinated by Kele Okereke and his attempts to drag Bloc Party kicking and screaming into the world of electronica. If he’d been allowed to make it, it’s clear this would have been their next album. Although firmly in the electronic camp, The Boxer shows similar progression from Intimacy as that did from A Weekend In The City.
It’s all a far cry from the choppy guitars of Banquet and Helicopter, but the success of Bloc Party has allowed him to make this step – and while far from polished – it does enough to suggest the Bloc Party hiatus could become permanent.
“Walk Tall” is an unusual marker to set down, a laddish electronic stomper over a warped bassline that leaves you concerned, yet intrigued, about what is to come. “On The Lam” feels very Broad Street and is destined for the remix tapes, before big single “Tenderoni” makes an appearance. I’m not sure how to describe Tenderoni, other than, well, I just don’t like it. Being transported back to 2006 with a hook remiscent of Bodyrox and Luciana’s “Yeah Yeah” doesn’t help matters, but leaving that to one side the track never betters average.
You do wonder where the album is going as “The Other Side” and “Everything You Wanted” both seem like old Bloc Party songs with extra beats and bleeps thrown over the top. In some ways that sums up The Boxer – electronic ballads with definite potential, yet unable to shake off the ghosts of the past. This feeling fades towards the end, notably on “Rise”, but there’s an overwhelming feeling that this could have been so much better.
The question mark for me is over who will listen to and buy this record. Later fans of Bloc Party yes, but as an electronic album it’s not good enough to win new followers from that genre. Without his track record, this would get absolutely nowhere. Time will tell of course, and this record does show promise, but you sense Kele needs to swing the axe for good in order to make the album he’s craving.
Kele plays Glastonbury this weekend, followed by a UK tour calling at Birmingham’s O2 Academy 2 on 14th July.