[sic] Magazine

The Boxer Rebellion – B Sides and Rarities

“We have never been a band that set out to write a b-side. We have always been a band that strives to write something better than what we have done before. With that in mind, people can listen to these songs as ones that were worked to the full in order to fit on an album, but for one of any number of reasons didn’t make it…… The fact that these songs never made it onto an album is irrespective”

The above statement from the multinational members of the London based Boxer Rebellion could be viewed as a slice of high sincerity or a piece of very crafty marketing. Unfortunately it is often the case that the mopping up exercises of B sides and rarities collections rarely transcend the ‘couple of great tracks versus the high on filler factor’. Granted Nathan Nicholson and his chums have rarely let the quality control go southward in their three officially released long players to date and these should be sought out post haste. It does however beg the question that if you are new to The Boxer Rebellion whether you would be best advised to purchase these two ‘new’ CDs comprising some very decent songs or fork out a measly sums for their 2009 masterwork Union or their cracking debut Exits (2005) on Amazon? ‘Simples’ as they say, unless of course you are a connoisseur of the band then there is much in this collection to rouse curiosity and generally enjoy.

Volume 1 (6.5 out of 10) of these rarities is almost entirely a snapshot of the band in 2003/2004 and in essence could be seen as as first cousin of Exits and includes versions of tracks already on that album such as ever present and wonderful ‘Watermelon’. Opener ‘Palisade’ is a big pounding epic with the trademark indie powerhouse guitars as a backdrop, equally those great and musically bulldozing early singles from various EPs which never made the first album such as the scintillating slow building noise fest of ‘In Pursuit’ (2003) and ‘Code Red’ (2004) are wonderful to hear again, although are they strictly rarities? The price of admission here is clearly achieved with the inclusion of the seven minute plus ‘In The Empire’. Yes it does have obvious Radiohead overtones but it is huge rock anthem with a superb Nicholson vocal and the band firing like an Aston Martin DB5. If there is a problem with this album is that as a snapshot in time it captures them at the overture before the main opera stage. As they honed their sound with Union and more latterly The Cold Still the type of heart on your sleeve, one size fits all Quiet -LOUD template which characterise most of the songs on Volume 1 are replaced by a much more interesting band on the later out takes and rarities of Volume 2 (7 out of 10). Thus quite why the brilliant ‘Broken Glass’ was left off any of their albums is a Gordian Knot puzzle of epic proportions with its huge sound and brilliantly hard melodies. As for the lovely acoustic version of ‘Spitting Fire’ it proves that the band should regularly unplug the Fenders and turn to the Yamaha’s much more often; the same applies to the ghostly and sublime piano driven version of ‘Semi Automatic’ which this reviewer actually prefers to the original. Finally the nice pop sensibility of ‘Waiting’ is an effective counterpoint to yet another huge anthem such as ‘Red Tape’ which verges on U2 bombast.


So there you have it, two albums which should keep the converted broadly happy although why the whole lot couldn’t have been packaged as one album at a knock down price is all a bit odd. The Boxer Rebellion comprising Nathan Nicholson, Adam Harrison , Piers Hewitt and Todd Howe are working on a new album set for release in 2013. Any lover of good music can only offer a sly prayer that it finally brings this excellent band to headlining the main stage at Glastonbury and that they in turn reflect that on the evidence of this album turning down the volume a notch or two often produces a much more powerful set of songs.


The Boxer Rebellion homepage

Band of the year article

The Cold Still – review