By Chris Homer
The Boxer, the debut solo album from Kele, marks a shift in style from the sound of his work in Bloc Party. While Bloc Party combined elements of guitar-driven rock with electro, The Boxer is almost entirely devoid of guitar. Instead, Kele focuses on bringing forward electronic sounds – a shift that’s beginnings can be heard on later Bloc Party albums like Intimacy. While the guitars are missed, Kele delivers a diverse range of electronic sounds that make The Boxer a worthy solo release.
At times, the album sounds like a slickly produced dance record. “Tenderoni” relies on blasting synths and frantic rhythms. Producer XXXChange gives the song a huge chorus that makes for a dancehall banger. It isn’t the most original bit of electronic music, but it is still worthwhile.
Kele’s strongest songs on The Boxer feature harsher, minimalist electronic sounds. Album opener “Walk Tall” stands out thanks to its tribal percussion and dark synth blasts. Following “Walk Tall,”, “On The Lam” features a simple looped glitchy beat, but remains entertaining. After a catchy pop chorus, “Rise” takes you by surprise by dissolving into rapid, bloated synth noise. This transition is one of the best parts of The Boxer.
Later, the down-trodden heartbreak Kele sings of in “Everything You Wanted” and “All The Things I Could Never Say” is matched with subdued rhythms and washed out synth melodies. These songs sound truly lonely. On “The New Rules,” the sample of the phone operator voice repeating, “Please hang up and try again,” mixed with the plucked strings that make up the rest of the song is a clever touch that makes the track memorable.
In the end, The Boxer certainly doesn’t sound like a Bloc Party album, so don‘t expect it to be one. However, Kele establishes himself as a promising solo artist with this debut.