Stimulus: Kele – The Boxer
Credit Bloc Party singer Kele Okereke for wanting to explore beyond his band’s usual purview, but at least half of his solo debut is unremarkable electro-pop. Most of the songs on The Boxer feature some form of dysfunction, whether it be excessive minimalism, dull and repetitive beats, the overuse of phone operator samples, or the cloying female backing vocals which derail a few songs. Indeed, the only constant to be found on this album is that Kele Okereke has a passionate and powerful voice, even when his lyrics are trite.
And he certainly is capable of trite, something which clashes with his music at times. During the thrilling, dark electronic stomping of “Walk Tall,” Kele’s voice struts around a battlefield of his own making, barking out military cadence and listing nonsensical rules of conduct. In the electronic throbbing of “Tenderoni,” he takes time out to spell the name of the song, which is rather asinine. On musical merit, both of these songs rank among the album’s best, but the goofiness of the vocals distracts.
Yet there is some good to come from this experiment. Taken at face value, “On the Lam” is a flashy Europop tune, but it’s neat to note that the song’s seething female vocals are actually Kele, who tweaked his voice into sex change and plays it well. “All the Things I Could Never Say” takes the album’s forays into minimalism and does it right, with Kele overpowering a loop with his voice. Vocally, this is the most amazing piece on the album – that is, until Kele’s lady henchman bursts in.
There’s something telling about The Boxer, when its best song, “Unholy Thoughts,” is essentially a Bloc Party song, aglow in fast drums and high bass. Kele’s leap beyond a band serves up a few good tracks, but it seems that the structure of his group works best for him.
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