Recording information: Dubway Studios, New York, NY; Fortress studios, London; Real World Studios, Box, England.
The Boxer Rebellion's third album starts off on a decidedly moody note, even for them, thanks to the combination of slow, heavy drumming, some equally portentous piano, and Nathan Nicholson's opening line of "Maybe there's just no use." But "No Harm" is the kind of dark-shaded song that boils down to how well it works in execution, and the band's ear for the forlornly anthemic continues to serve them well, with the slow, distant swell of strings and Nicholson's overdubbed falsettos turning the song into a beautiful, steady burn. Moments of band interplay showcase their collective ear for the nervously romantic-sounding post-punk that's helped inspire the group's sound: there's the instrumental break on "Cause for Alarm" where Nicholson and Todd Howe's guitars have a quick interwoven tension, while "The Runner," perhaps the album's most full-on rocker, is as charging and brawling as anyone who loved groups like the Chameleons and Puressence could want. There's a sense of how well texture works as a compositional element for the group as much as anything else: "Locked in the Basement," with its contrast of Nicholson's soaring voice and bubbling, almost distant full band arrangement puts a spotlight on the singer by default, but it feels less like a spotlight and more like isolation from something else, further accentuated by the wordless vocal breaks that recur throughout. Piers Hewitt's increasingly louder drumming on "Caught by the Light" and, perhaps inevitably, the addition of titular instrument on "Organ Song," are similar moments where the sound is extended in enjoyable directions. Other songs with the most conventional rock sound to them -- the charging "Step Out of the Car" and "Memo" -- have a sound that's more of a clean sweep than a rough-edged swipe, which lets the gentler numbers such as "Both Sides Are Even" feel like pauses for breath without changing the album's general, stately flow. ~ Ned Raggett
Q (Magazine) (p.101) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "'Caught By The Light' aches beautifully, and Nathan Nicholson's vocals on 'Locked In The Basement' bear favourable comparison with Fleet Foxes."
Uncut (magazine) (p.85) - 3 stars out of 5 -- "[With] the surprisingly visceral 'Step Out Of The Car', punctuated by Todd Howe's bristling guitar licks."