Review Summary: Somewhere in the middle of London...
It's often said that every city is the same, and while it's true that there are the same shops, the same buildings and often the same people, I generally find each city has its own unique feel. Sydney feels like home, Hong Kong feels industrious and exotic and London…well, London feels tired. It's been a major hubbub of world activity for over a thousand years and this great age, coupled with grisly weather and dirty streets creates a general feeling of weariness. It is this weariness and the sense of disillusionment that accompanies it that fuels A Weekend In The City.
The lyrical content of the album deals with the many facets of modern life in the city, however rather than being a social commentary it's more of an insight. From drug use to sexuality, terrorism to one night stands the lyrics are poignant yet surprisingly straight forward. The fact that the album ends with a man committing suicide is perhaps the best indicator of the tone of the whole. Lines like "feasting on sleeping pills and Marlboro reds/Self pity won't save you" are scattered throughout while the brief moments of optimism in Waiting For The 7: 18 or Sunday are subtly destroyed with "if you want to know what makes me sad, well it's hope, the endurance of faith. A battle that lasts a lifetime". For singer Kele Okereke, city life is distressing and mundane, a vicious cycle. Vocally, he pulls the lines off with impressive poeticism and emotion (or the occasional lack of) which make them all the more compelling.
However, lyrics don't make an album and it's the rest of the band that completes the picture. The most notable of them is drummer Matt Tong whose complex, dance-infused beats that deliver much needed energy and imagination. Unfortunately, the guitars and bass don't make quite the same impact but it's no complaint as they still create the atmosphere and the club-like throbs. Nothing is lost in the mix, however the guitars are sometimes a little similar, but when it's as striking as the riff in Uniform and I Still Remember, it could only have been intentional. Whether this payed off or not is debatable however and remains the only drawback on the album.
On of the most remarkable things about A Weekend In The City is its consistency. Despite experimentations with recording techniques, electronics and synths, every song obviously belongs in the same batch as the others which is a trick more artists could do with learning. Ultimately this means that there are no immediate highlights, but at the same time it is far more effective at sucking listeners into the album and its stories, taking them on a journey that is at once familiar and enlightening.
Perhaps this is what makes A Weekend In The City such a great album. Unlike most bands that make political or social statements, Bloc Party do not tell listeners what the problems are, but instead show, displaying the feelings and stories of everyday people as an examination of modern life in one of the worlds oldest and most weary cities.