Takes a few blows, but wins in round two
Boxers are studies in contrast: brutish but graceful, quick but enduring. With his first solo album, Bloc Party frontman Kele Okereke reveals similar juxtapositions, his feathery falsettos duking it out with the discordant electro beats. He makes a strong declaration of independence in the opener, “Walk Tall,” where he roars over a ferocious synth saw, “Cut your ties to the past and wave it goodbye.” The second track seeks to sever his indie-rock ties altogether, with his pitch manipulated into a high squeak and layered over old-school breaks. But while The Boxer is many things its namesake suggests—brash, fearless—it’s clumsy and confusing at times, too. The disparate elements tend to compete with each other, leading to the paranoid seizure of tracks like “All the Things I Could Never Say,” on which Okereke assumes the role of a preacher, with results too bizarre to be revelatory. Still, his earnestness shines through, and in shaking off his rock baggage, he’s made the best kind of electro album: the sort that can be appreciated just as much from the couch as the club.