Review Summary: Forget everything you know about Bloc Party and prepare to bask in their new found sense of social responsiblity.
Bloc Party’s first full length 2005’s Silent Alarm
glistened with a stylish urban aura and in the same way as Blur
always did, it felt like a “London” record. Where as Oasis
are distinctly northern in its approach to lyrics and song writing, Bloc Party felt like what it in essence was; four southern kids making a splendid indie pop record. Silent Alarm
of course lacked direction and the songs seemed to be coming from all angles and while the Bloc Party buffet offered a wide variety of choices what it didn’t offer was a really cohesive album with a solid flow. Yet despite its flaws Silent Alarm
was hugely enjoyable and of course showed potential which most of the bands in the UK’s desolate indie scene would kill for. So having provided a solid basis for the future and just about surviving the NME hype with some credibility in tact, Bloc Party disappeared from the public eye and set about writing something special with their next record, that now being A Weekend in the City
once wrote the infamous lines off self fulfilment, “If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise don't even start,” which I feel sums up Bloc Party’s approach to A Weekend in the City
. It is a vastly changed record form Silent Alarm
, the band clearly wanted to set themselves apart and they sure have done. Having completely abandoned their pop roots they have embraced full steam the post punk demeanour hinted at previously and combined that with post rock elements to create something both unique and brilliant. If post punk died with Ian Curtis
in 1980 then someone really needs to let Kele Okereke know because this album is open homage to that scene as well as borrowing elements from The Cure
and early Manic Street Preachers
Lyrically it is a rapid departure with Kele moving onto the political battleground on Hunting for Witches
, which serves as a furious attack on the scapegoat mentality of the press in the wake of The bombings on the London Underground and the general atmosphere from the "War on Terror". As worn as the topic is Kele has a lot more subtlety than say Billie Joe Armstrong
of Green Day
. Kele sings, “The news copter says the enemies among us, as bombs explode on the 30 bus, Kill your middle class indecision, now is not the time for a liberal thought.”
He embraces a more melodic style vocally and has toned down his cockney eccentricities whilst retaining a strong personal element, essentially it still sounds like the same singer but its clear he has matured and sings in a somber more monotone manner. Instrumentally there is a distinct urban vibe to the songs which Banquet
displayed at on Silent Alarm
but was sadly never really developed from there. Always a strong point of the bands sound, drummer Matt Tong is as spot on as ever providing complex beats which sound dance infused, this is an excellent contrast with the slower, withdrawn nature of A Weekend in the City
Lead single The Prayer
opens with an on/off drum clap with a slight electronic feel over which Kele sings, “Lord give me grace and dancing feet, And the power to impress, Lord give me grace and dancing feet, Let me outshine the moon”
before the song moves into more familiar territory with the chorus which although more typical Bloc Party still has a new and more intimate sentiment. Elsewhere Sunday
is a haunting, melancholy track which sounds very much like some of The Cure
’s slower songs. By this stage its clear Bloc Party wont be filling dance floors with anthems like Helicopter anymore but they will hopefully be regarded as having made a though provoking record, as I Still Remember
shows with its beautiful chorus which has a little of Snow Patrol
’s pop vibe to it.
As with any album which shows progression and maturity there are going to be some fans who as predictably as the sun rising will say that the band have changed for the worse. Feel free to take these words lightly because this is a vastly superior album to anything Bloc Party have done previously and shows all the signs of a band who could someday achieve great things. I’ll leave you with the words of Charles Bukowski
who sums up progression far better than I ever could.
"If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise don't even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives, jobs. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods. And the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It's the only good fight there is."
Hunting for Witches
I Still Remember