While much of mainstream pop culture seems obsessed with the thinking that the world is about to end, or at least with what life would be like afterwards, we are actually in tragic times, not apocalyptic. The world is not at war or on the knife’s edge of destruction, but we are being buffeted by one tragic crisis after another, from terrorist attacks to natural disasters, from the good losing to the bad winning. That is why the tragic music of The Boxer Rebellion fits so well, such as with their latest, Promises.
Admittedly not a huge variation from their prior records, Promises still hits home, whether chill and smooth like opener “Diamonds” or in the expansive letting it all out of “Always”. “Diamonds” aside, this is a record with more grandeur, as even the slow & soft “Dream” getting bigger – though perhaps no song is as grand as the home of Grand Central, “New York”. Sometimes The Boxer Rebellion can lose their feet a bit with their head up in the clouds (“Low”, “Keep Moving”), and get a bit too high on the obvious “You Belong To Me”. But it all comes together in the grand and effective title track to close.
While The National (QRO spotlight on) have gotten smaller and more intimate (QRO new album review), The Boxer Rebellion have only grown outward on Promises (though perhaps could use some of The National’s indie-classical effects, especially strings). And they remain effectively tragic, and tragically effective.