Review Summary: Bloc party are back with an intelligent, emotional album fusing electronic with their typical London indie influences to create an enjoyable listening experience.
Bloc Party are back in terrific style. The British foursome have improved hugely since the disappointing A Weekend In The City
and are now starting to show some of the huge promise lauded over them for their debut Silent Alarm
. However, this album is a step into uncharted waters for the band, whose electronical presence has always been felt, albeit as synths underneath the main music. Not so with Intimacy, an album where the electronica takes centre stage, and shines from the word go.
The chaotic Ares
opens the album with Okereke shrieking "War, war, war, war, I want to declare war", immediately grasping the listener by the metaphorical scruff of the neck, and pulling them into a calculated, digital listening experience, blatant enough for the catchy riffs to assert themselves to your short-term memory, but at the same time subtle enough to warrant more attention than the average Brit indie release. The new found brashness of the music is typified by the next track and first single Mercury
. The huge drum beat in conjunction with the glitched vocal chorus is very catchy, and although on a single listen may annoy, becomes instantly recognisable on further listens, the sing along chorus typical of the bands earlier work.
This brings me to the main flaw of the album. On a single listen, many of the tracks may aggravate some listeners, who will then dismiss the album out of hand. In order to truly enjoy this album, you have to give it a chance. Tracks like One Month Off
and the two previously mentioned tracks are very different to anything Bloc Party have ever done, and the over production of the music is bound to turn-off some fans. Given more play time though, this album can be enjoyed by the masses.
As well as the numerous high octane tracks, the band has included some mellower, more emotionally fuelled tracks, with varying success. Zephyrus
is a heart wrenching song about a break-up, the instrumentation and pained vocals making this an album highlight. Better Than Heaven
is also a nicely constructed, emotional song, with much to offer. However, the inclusion of Ion Square
, possibly the worst song on an otherwise terrific record, is frustrating, as the song starts with a very promising idea. However it goes nowhere, and is far too boring for an album like this.
Onto the music itself and starting with the drumming, which has in my eyes at least, been the high point of Bloc Party’s earlier work. Matt Tong is a fantastic drummer for a band such as this, and his almost robotic approach, hitting beats perfectly time and time again, has never felt so in place. Most of the beats are simple in approach, rarely leaving the snare, bass or hi-hat except for the fills, and in some tracks such as Mercury
, not at all. But the real brilliance of the drumming is the aforementioned consistency of timing, and this hammering of on beats at relentless speed is complemented excellently by the futuristic feel to the music.
On the odd occasion when the drumming is off, for example in Talons
, the performances by the rest of the band more than makes up for it. Okereke’s vocals have never been to everyone’s liking, and indeed in the past have been lauded as the weak point of the band. But on Intimacy, you can hear the improvement, even if half the time his vocals are masked by a myriad of synthetic enhancements. The toning down of his usual shrieks and wails really makes the music easier to listen to, and the sometimes annoying over-articulation of words seems to have gone as well. The guitars are as usual, very good and catchy enough for the spiky riffs to be remembered for days, after only a few listens.
If Bloc Party had released another Silent Alarm
or A Weekend In The City
then their critics will no doubt have mentioned something about ‘lack of originality’ or some such criticism. However, by doing just the opposite, Bloc Party have released a stunning album that although not pleasing all their existing fans, will no doubt get them new ones; and, whether you like this album or not, you have to applaud the progression that the band has made. This is a dark, ominous masterpiece of rhythmical electronica and everything on here has a radical and clever layering. Ruthless in its approach, although more harnessed than their other two albums, there is definitely a new sense of maturity about this music, and hopefully this new mature Bloc Party will go on to make many more albums like this.
Overall 4/5 Excellent