Spin Magazine’s critic called Boxer Rebellion the “Best Men in Black,” following their performance this year at SXSW. Was that a reference to Johnny Cash? Will Smith? No. Spin tagged Boxer Rebellion as a standard angst-ridden Brit rock band, which is to say that Boxer Rebellion sounds like anyone.
The Brits have been great re-packagers of everyone else. But Boxer Rebellion is not so much a UK group as they are an international band based there, and their sound is a moving target. Nathan Nicholson is from Maryville, Tennessee (he moved to London after his mother died in 2000), and Todd Howe is an Australian. They met in London and made a band with Englishmen Adam Harrison and Piers Hewitt and did what any other starter band would do: they played every ratty gig they could.
The deal-maker was Poptones Records. The owner liked Boxer Rebellion’s Radiohead style and released the band’s first CD in 2005 to favorable reviews. Boxer Rebellion steadily gained respect, and their third record, The Cold Still, was produced by Ethan Johns at Peter Gabriel’s studio in Bath, England. Johns has worked with big acts such as Ryan Adams, Rufus Wainwright, and the Kings of Leon. And that is who Boxer Rebellion most resembles today: the Kings, which is a fortuitous move, considering that the Followill brothers are on hiatus.
Boxer Rebellion is a curious name. The original boxer rebellion was a covert uprising among peasants that started in China in the late 1800s. The mission was simple: they wanted Christians out of their country. They practiced boxing because they thought boxing would make them impervious to bullets. It’s maybe a little irony in the World Wrestling Entertainment decision to use “Spitting Fire” for the soundtrack of their feature film Inside Out.
Beautiful View also performs.
BOXER REBELLION: The Casbah, Monday, December 12, 8:30 p.m. 619-232-4355. $12 advance; $14 day of show.