Review Summary: Bloc Party returns from the dead, but the party itself is nowhere to be found.
Four years after Intimacy
, the very mixed received third album by Bloc Party, and the following hiatus, the British superstars return with the aptly named Four
. The question that's on everyone and their mother's mind is which direction the post-punkers would follow after their heavy electronic third and the even heavier programmed solo albums by frontman Kele Okereke. For those of you who want to hear the fuzz and screeches of the guitars back there's good news: Four
is the most straightforward rocking Bloc Party since 2005's Silent Alarm
But - and here it starts to get ugly - Four
isn't half as engaging as the band's older work, including black sheep Intimacy
. Despite of the huge change in sound on that last one, there was at least that undefinable spark - call it a heart and soul if you wish - present that makes the band special. At least there was the notion the group believed in what they were doing. Apart from the different musical approach, Intimacy
still felt like a true Bloc Party record. In comparison, this humble reviewer doesn't get that special feeling at all with Four
The electronics may be gone, but what we get instead is a cacophony of what seem like a thousand different styles and sounds clashing together. It's as if the band had a massive creative burst after their sabbatical and they refused to cut a single one of their ideas to improve the coherence. On top of that (and contradictory enough) the record feels very stripped-down, skimmed from its layers. Songs like 'Real Talk' or 'Day Four' are just glorified demo takes, early sketches of what could be great songs if the band had given them some extra attention. Now there only exists the notion that they could have been something more than just album filler between guitar anthems. Speaking of anthems, it seems that Bloc Party decided to not
sound like Bloc Party on Four
, but instead to just rip off other artists. Take 'Kettling' for example. The song is second-grade Jimmy Eat World, but with an even glossier production than that band - which for the record isn't a good thing at all. Elsewhere, 'Coliseum' is the most cringe-worthy Motörhead pastiche I've ever heard, and every time it blasts through my speakers, I can't help but to think: "Why, for god's sake, why?"
Luckily, there are a couple of rough diamonds on here, that counteract the many bads on Four
and prevent the record from being a complete disaster. First single 'Octopus' is actually very decent, it's just that Klaxons did this type of song so much better on their debut Myths Of The Near Future
. Even better is 'So He Begins To Lie', the nasty, feedback-infused joyride of an opener. It's practically the only moment on Four
that I get the feeling that the band still hasn't lost its touch; together with 'V.A.L.I.S.' that is, which is vintage Bloc Party from the glory days: extremely danceable with plenty of hooks and moments for drummer Matt Tong to show his prowess. Also, for those of you who get the deluxe version of the album, you can expect the two bonus tracks to relieve some pains from the regular tracks.
However, those scarce rays of hope can't remedy the fact that Four
is by far the worst album in the band's career. Above all, I feel that it's a very empty record, like a shiny, but ultimately hollow shell. I'm missing the playfullness of yore and the sense of unity. The band members have already shouted that they will probably soon pull the plug again from project Bloc Party. If that's the case, one can only wonder why they decided to briefly return and release this underwhelming piece of work. What I'm concerned, Four
is the biggest disappointment of the year so far.