Monday, August 20, 2007

A Weekend in the City by Bloc Party

Bloc Party are a lot of things: ambitious, serious, dedicated and earnest. Oh, so very earnest. When Bloc Party decide to take their epic (ish), dead serious power pop rock in a slightly different direction, you know damn well that they'll do just that. And still have a message to push. And push it they will. With vigour.

After Silent Alarm in 2005, with its onslaught of energy and immediacy, Bloc Party announced themselves with a piercing yell that easily pushed them to the forefront of the many, many exciting debuts of that time (Arcade Fire, The Go! Team, Maximo Park et al), serious subject matter being married seamlessly to dancefloor riffs and beats, driven by one of the most furiously tight and tidy rhythm sections since Rage Against the Machine. Suddenly, Lindsay Lohan and Brad Pitt were rocking up to gigs. So where do you go for a sequel? Well, these guys still are dead serious, and the riffs are still there, but something's a bit different. They're still irony free, and while that can easily get irritating, you can't help but believe them, and that they really give a shit. Of course, there are a series of bonus features not heard on Silent Alarm, most notably singer Kele Okereke's - slightly forced - falsetto on lead track "Song for Clay (Disappear Here)", before kicking into more familiar thumping riff territory in the second half. It's actually a real corker, and it's Bloc Party's real strength: if nothing else, these guys are professional, thorough and precise. Songs are crafted here, unlike the aural energy bursts of the previous record; "Hunting for Witches" opens with digitally mixed random noise and beats before drummer Matt Tong steps in with some of his (now trademark) creative drumming and the riffing, thumping song proper kicks in. And it's great.

And that's the thing: much of the record is great. Not just that, but it's the one thing you wouldn't expect a Bloc Party record to be: a grower. A real, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die, dead set grower (hence the review coming some months after the release). In fact, the most accessible song here, "I Still Remember", the second single, is also the weakest. And that is no co-incidence. Opening single, "The Prayer" which, from a band that seems enthusiastically atheistic, is actually Okereke hoping to get the balls to hit the dance floor and pull chicks, is positively thrilling, tribal drums thumping along over pseudo-electronica-with-instruments, and it's, once again, great. And it's not isolated: "Waiting for the 7:18" is a genuinely pretty little love song, "On" is the most creative track here, and "Uniform" is a gentle breather.

However, there are some sequencing issues. The second half falls a litle flat in patches, not least on the by-the-numbers "I Still Remember", with its paint by numbers lead riff and Okereke's truly awful jumper in the film clip.

But in the end, not many bands can ake themselves this bloody seriously, try so damn hard, and not sound complete turds. Bloc Party is most definitely one of those bands. They can suck occasionally, but A Weekend in the City is evidence that if you've got the time, the talent, and the sheer pig-headedness, you can put together a solid, mature and thoroughly enjoyable record.

4 stars

1 Comments:

At 12:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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