I tend to put more importance "my firsts" then on "the firsts". For instance, my Red Hot Chili Pepper album was "Stadium Arcadium" rather than "BloodSugarSexMagik" (first commercial breakthrough). I feel that I'm not alone on this; I mean, how many people first encountered the Black Keys through "Tighten Up" or "Lonely Boy" and instantly liked those more than, say, "Psychotic Girl". Which brings me to my first Bloc Party album "A Weekend in the City".
First some background, Bloc Party is an indie rock band hailing from London, England. The band consists of Kele Okereke (rhythm guitar, vocals), Russel Lissack (lead guitar), Gordon Moakes (bass guitar) and Matt Tong (drummer), Kele and Russel met in Essex while Gordon and Matt both auditioned later on. They started making waves through the UK indie scene with the releases of some EP's and electrifying live performances. After giving a copy of "She's Hearing Voices" to Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand, they manage to get their big break and record a debut LP. This, "Silent Alarm", was met with instant critical and commercial acclaim. They then set out to record their sophomore release.
This rings us back to "A Weekend in the City", which I bought at the local used record store under the pretense that it was the debut. For some reason, I was associating the minimalism of "Silent Alarm"'s cover to that of their third release "Intimacy". I panicked when I found out this had 65% metascore and their debut had an 82%, I was afraid that I ended up wasting my money. Thank god, I was wrong.
Judging from Kele's bare falsetto at the opening ("Disappear Here") , I had every right to be afraid of disappointment. He sounds silly and the electronic fuzz that followed didn't help matters either. Then Matt Tong's intense drumming comes into the mix, which is then followed by an attack of the guitars that can only be described as a sound explosion. All in all, its a good opener. After this we get "Hunting for Witches", which tricks us at the beginning with a sample collage of various radio shows. Tong's dance influenced drumming comes into the song, which is then followed by Lissack's effects laden guitar riff. Kele's lyrics show us that they are no longer the party-ready youth's from "Silent Alarm", they have now grown and began addressing such topics as bombing and Islamophobia. We then get their most anthemic song, "Waiting for the 7:18", which comes off as Coldplay-esque on the first listen but you start singing with it after multiple times. The lead single "The Prayer" goes back to the dance oriented direction of "Silent Alarm", but it is still a good song in retrospect.
After "The Prayer", the album starts to introduce electronic experimentation. Whereas when Radiohead did it, it came as a shock, but when Bloc Party does it, it just seems natural. Granted, I enjoyed the guitar half more, but that's because I grew up with the guitar bands such as Led Zeppelin and The Ramones. But cheers to the boys for being brave enough to temper with their sound and possibly scare away fans. The lyrics still go in that earnest direction, such as "Uniform"s complaints against conformity and hypocrites. I have to admit, though, that I prefer the more guitar based sound found on the first four tracks against the latter part of the album. All in all though, it is an entertaining listen and it shows a band growing up. Some times they come off as overly earnest, but this can be forgiven when the songs themselves are actually very good. And after repeated visits, even Kele's embarrassing falsetto seems to be epic.