[sic] Magazine

The Boxer Rebellion – Ghost Alive

“I lost you once
I won’t lose you again “

This latest album from The Boxer Rebellion is a restrained, contemplative piece of work. For a band that nuances each release, it remains a radical departure from the ‘sunnier disposition’ of preceding long-players. Both Ocean By Ocean and Promises had their moments of beauty. Yet I find that TBR often conjure their best material out of darker times, struggles and setbacks. In many ways Ghost Alive is a more natural ‘successor’ to The Cold Still than either of those aforementioned records. Subtle reflection personified The Cold Still, testament to a band relaxing into its own skin. The acoustic-driven Ghost Alive picks up that same baton albeit with far more sombre tones.

Guitarist Andrew Smith oversaw arrangements on Ghost Alive. Three promotional cuts already presented a good indication of where we’re going. ‘Here I Am’ unveils an unimpeachable performance by band and singer alike. ‘What The Fuck’ takes one of Nathan Nicholson‘s favorite tropes (retaliation) and disguises it in gentle Americana while ‘Love Yourself’ provides the thematic keystone. However the little touches are what truly elevate this slow-burner. Witness the cowboy whistling in ‘WTF’, the almost harpsichord-effected guitars on ‘Lost Cause’ and untypically optimistic brass (various). There’s even a segued sequence in ‘Rain’ reminiscent of The National’s Fake Empire.


The backdrop to Ghost Alive has been well documented elsewhere. Nathan has spoken openly on the subjects of depression, mental health in general and personal loss. I don’t feel it is my place to re-report such sensitive matters, but the man (whose last recorded lyric was; “I choose to be happy”) only rises further still in my estimation for shining a light on these important issues. Recent history does however permeate into the music, giving Ghost Alive both identity and philosophy. Had someone informed me that this new release was a Nicholson solo album I could almost have bought into that notion, especially given the acoustic prominence of songs like ‘River’ and ‘Goodnight’. However Ghost Alive is clearly a TBR album in nature as well as name. Adam Harrison is the unsung hero. A student of world music, Harrison makes complexity appear effortless. His laid-back, lilting basslines approach dub-reggae at times and when the brass kicks in on ‘Under Control’ it’s the highlight of the album for me.

This band is one of music’s great survivors. Whatever crap the industry, the media or life in general throws their way, TBR stand firm and they endure. Their enduring legacy for us will be a stunning portfolio of music. As this album attests, setbacks don’t define us. Rather, what we do in response. What TBR have achieved is musical alchemy, channeling experiences and emotion through their art and forging them into gold. I challenge anyone to remain unmoved when hearing the pain and truth behind these beautiful vocals. Ghost Alive may be low-key, but a more tender catharsis is difficult to imagine.

They should be rightfully proud.

Ghost Alive is available now at tour dates and on general release March 23rd.

Find Out More

Band Of The Year

NME article with Nathan