British indie rock quartet Champion Kickboxer is from Sheffield, and its sound recalls that of other musicians from the north of England, notably Gang of Four (from Leeds). Like Gang of Four, Champion Kickboxer makes spare, angular arrangements of its rock songs, but the newer band doesn't have its predecessor's punk energy. It also brings in some other influences, such as choir music (all four members seem to be accomplished singers) and even traditional Japanese music. For all that, lead singer and songwriter Tom Bates has a foggy voice and thick British accent that at times resembles Ray Davies of the Kinks or Terry Hall of the Specials as he sings somewhat abstract lyrics to songs with titles like "Maximum," "Language," and "Thinking." The American edition of the album improves it by following the appropriately titled "Exhaustion Rules" with the wordy and energetic 2004 single "Supertram," which has a touch of Jacques Brel's emotionalism to it. Champion Kickboxer may have outgrown such fervor by the time of the album's recording two years later, but it punches up the disc to good effect.
AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann