Friday, 2 November 2012
Rate The Albums: Bloc Party
1. Silent Alarm
An astonishingly accomplished debut by a band that sounded as though they'd been playing together for 20 years, Silent Alarm is an explosive guitar classic that showcased the individual talents of each member of the group. Because unlike the majority of major label bands these days and long before, Bloc Party are far from a one man band. Okerere is without doubt a lyrical genius, weaving literary and cultural references into his intelligent songwriting and unique delivery, as heard on ''So Here We Are'' and ''Plans'', two tracks that best define the theme of wasted modern youth that is repeatedly referenced throughout the album. But then there's Russell Lissack, one of the most gifted guitarists in modern music today, who dominates on tracks such as ''Helicopter'', ''Pioneers'' and ''Luno'' with his experimental lead guitar and alternative techniques, while the rythym section of Moakes and Tong compliment each other perfectly, most noticeably on signature hit ''Banquet''.
Utimately, Silent Alarm showed that in an ever increasingly bland indie music scene, there are still bands like Bloc Party with original and special talent.
''I am trying to be heroic in an age of modernity'' was the line Kele chose to open sophomore album A Weekend In The City. Sounds pretty accurate to me.
Best Tracks: Like Eating Glass/This Modern Love/So Here We Are
Intimacy received a sharply polarized reaction from fans and critics upon it's release, with criticism mainly focusing on it's rushed release and electronic style. These are the two elements that make it a huge favourite of mine as the newfound electronic approach made for an aggressive, pulsating sound on ''Mercury'', ''Trojan Horse'' and ''One Month Off'' while there were also hints of delicate beauty throughout, heard on ''Biko'', ''Signs'' and the magical ''Ion Square''. The rush release of Intimacy can be heard within the album- it's obsessive compulsive, quickfire nature is central to the record's sound and it was clear to see that the band were fearless in their approach, giving no thought to the consequences of making these bold stylistic changes. Kele's lyrics examined relationships and gave greater insight into the frontman as he wrote on a more personal level than Silent Alarm and Weekend, giving Intimacy a heartfelt and intimate touch that provokes an emotional reaction in the listener.
Some are still unhappy with Bloc Party's third, but for what it's worth I see Intimacy as a daring acheivement that exposed a newfound side to the band that personally I would love to see developed in the future.
Best Tracks: Biko/Signs/Ion Square
3. A Weekend In The City
It was tough to place A Weekend In The City third, but the consistently brilliant nature of the band's first three made it difficult to order and meant it came out on the wrong end of a great series of albums. So obviously I'm still a huge fan of Weekend, mainly because it's an album that did what so many band's have failed to after such a hyped debut- it delivered on the original promise of the first record.
Themes of alienation and growing older dominated Weekend, as heard on bombastic opener ''Song For Clay'', the triumphant climax of ''Waiting For The 7.18'', and the aching, delicate beauty of ''SRXT'', in which Kele adressess the issue of suicide in adolescents. It's an memorable, affecting closer and one of the band's finest songs. There were also broader issues such as terrorism and drug use in the UK on tracks like ''Hunting For Witches'' and ''The Prayer'' respectivley, while ''I Still Remember'' was an early indication of the relationship themed nature Kele's lyrics would take on the following release as he recalls a crush on a fellow student in school which never amounted to anything more.
The band's second effort was received with unanimous praise and acclaim much like it's predecessor, but while A Weekend In The City is another incredible collection of songs, the most important thing about was that it proved Bloc Party were here to stay, and they were very much capable of delivering more great albums.
Best Tracks: Waiting For The 7.18/I Still Remember/SRXT
Four years later, with the four original band members (in spite of rumours suggesting otherwise) came Bloc Party's fourth release, and unfortunatley their fourth best as well. It's not that Four is a bad record, far from it, but it most definitely doesn't hold the impact and lasting effect of the three that came before it. Maybe that would have been a tall order- it was great just to hear a band that years earlier looked doomed to split, and there are absolutely great tracks here such as ''V.A.L.I.S'' and ''The Healing'' which would be worthy of previous albums.
The heavy nature of many tracks however, is Four's greatest downfall and the result of a misguided attempt to revert back to the guitar/bass/drums approach of Silent Alarm. Songs like ''Kettling'' and ''So He Begins To Lie'' are the only real successful outcomes of this style, while ''3x3'' and ''We Are Not Good People'' expose the band at their weakest, reduced to cliched garage rock that simply doesnt suit Bloc Party. Another problem I find with Four is it's lack of direction- previous Bloc Party albums seemed to carry a message with them as a whole, but Four just feels like a random collection of songs.
Ultimately, it's a very good collection of songs for the most part, and while Four is far from the album many would expect from such an accomplished band, it gives me hope there is more left in this exceptional group of musicians.
Best Tracks: V.A.L.I.S/Truth/The Healing
Next Week: Interpol