Review Summary: Bloc Party embrace electronics and a recent break-up, but still bore with another hit-or-miss effort.
On their previous two albums, Bloc Party were borderline robotic. On a song like Banquet
, which was a fantastic debut single for a band looking to imitate Interpol’s rise to prominence, the drum and dual guitar interplay is so hopelessly angular and rigid, it seems as if it were programmed by a computer. The drummer in particular is a bit too “on the money” for his own good. But where Bloc Party were futuristic and inhuman in their tightness, they were shamelessly old-fashioned in their musical style, which ripped on Gang of Four and countless other Post-Punk bands from the 80’s, a la Interpol and Franz Ferdinand. Overall, the music was alright. It’s nothing you’d want to get caught dead by your cooler friends listening to, but it was pretty fun. It didn’t mean much. Early rumors had Bloc Party’s third release embracing electronics. Possibly Bloc Party were progressing on their quest to become machines? A digital release seemed to favor that hypothesis. Bloc Party gave their album to our computers before they gave it to us. A bias toward their own kind?
Yet, for some reason, Intimacy seems more
human than its predecessors. Lead singer Kele Okereke (he’s black, if you didn’t know) has stated that this is a break-up album. Weezer’s Pinkerton is listed chief among their influences on MySpace. What the ***, Bloc Party? Similar to what Radiohead do with a track like Idioteque, as the music on Intimacy becomes more mechanic, the parts that aren’t (i.e. the vocals) seem much more vulnerable. Though Zephyrus
, a late album highlight, features only electronic instrumentation, Okereke emotes in a way that he really hasn’t much before. His lyrics clearly detail a break-up (“Baby I’m ashamed of the things I put you through/Baby I’m ashamed of the man I was for you”), and when he’s singing them overtop synthesizer swells, and a dance-y drum machine beat, Okereke sounds like he’s genuinely pained. And the lyrics aren’t all as corny as the aforementioned one, though the unfortunate lines considerably outnumber the good ones. Still, when Okereke sings “And all you said, in your quietest voice was ‘I needed you as much as they do’” at the top of his voice it feels incredibly personal.
, as well as a few others on Intimacy, is similar to Zephyrus because of its heavily electronic feel and exposed vocals. It’s a ballad of sorts, but still retains the propulsion that Bloc Party pride themselves on. Also like Zephyrus, it’s a good song. However, don’t get the wrong idea, not all of Intimacy is quite as successful as the aforementioned tracks. Ares
sounds like a too-flamboyant, too-bad version of TV on the Radio, not unlike some tracks off Bloc Party’s 2nd release. On lead single Mercury
Okereke’s vocal performance is just plain aggravating (glitched vocals during the chorus? Really?) but the song’s big drum beat and dissonant horns save it from being a totally bad song. It’s pretty catchy too. Another thing that shouldn’t be confused: The old Bloc Party hasn’t been completely forgotten about in this sea of textured guitar parts and synthesizers. Trojan Horse
are both guitar-heavy rockers that would excite any mega-fan of Silent Alarm
, as an album, is hit-or-miss. Bloc Party have made what seems like a natural progression into a more electronic style, but have still retained key elements from their past records. Okereke’s lyrics clearly center on one single break up, but Intimacy is no Pinkerton. The lyrics are corny and simple too much of the time, and the music isn’t original or good enough to make this forgivable. Okereke is the center of attention, now that his band members have largely been replaced by machines, and most of the time he doesn’t deliver. In the end, Bloc Party was just never really that great of an “album band”. Just like their last two albums, Intimacy features some good tracks (here, mostly ballads) but really isn’t the kind of album that one wants to go back and listen to a whole bunch. That said, it’s better than A Weekend in the City
, and shows potential. Maybe next time.