Release Date: Aug 21, 2012
Record label: Frenchkiss Records
Genre(s): Indie Rock
Recorded after the British art rockers reportedly fired and rehired lead singer Kele Okereke, their guitar-heavy fourth record stews with palpable aggression. There's tetchy falsetto, brittle distortion and a tempestuous anti-one- percent rant ("We're Not Good People") that approaches thrash metal. It makes for their best record since their 2005 debut.
The Bloc Party story is that of post millennial British indie. They pitched up in 2004, when guitar bands actually sold records and even hapless also-rans like The Others could get an NME cover. Back then we needed Bloc Party - we were losing the Libertines in a fudgy fiasco of a babyshambolic breakdown and people were starting to take Razorlight seriously.
When Bloc Party went on a lengthy hiatus after the release of their third album Intimacy, it didn't seem like they needed to get back together. The band's members had moved on, with Kele Okereke releasing his solo album The Boxer and bassist Gordon Moakes forming the group Young Legionnaire. More importantly, it seemed like Bloc Party had said its piece, but Four -- an album title that reflects the years between the band's albums, the number of its members, and its place in Bloc Party's discography -- shows there's more life in their music than most would have predicted.
After the mixed reception afforded 2008's Intimacy, London four-piece Bloc Party went on sabbatical for two years. On the evidence of Four, the break did them good: from the off there's an urgency – and an aggression – to their post-punk shapes that hadn't been evident since their bravura debut, Silent Alarm. 3x3 and We Are Not Good People are propelled by a ferocious intensity, while Kettling recreates Smashing Pumpkins' monumental guitar sound to fine effect.
From the crunching chords of “So He Begins to Lie” through “We’re Not Good People,” there’s one, loud, indisputable message: Bloc Party is back. Four years on the sidelines seems to have re-energized the lads—their sound is as frenetic as when they left us. The appropriate blend of electronica and heavy, lo-fi, guitar-driven rock provides singer Kele Okereke the platform to take his voice to new and exciting places.
It’s 2005 and the ’80s post-punk revival is in full swing. The ‘wiry’ guitar sound reigns. The word ‘angular’ is used, on average, 25.3 times per NME. ‘New York Cool’ lives, The Rapture are the world’s hippest band and The Libertines couple post-punk with bohemian glamour to reinvent London.
Devoted fans of British indie rock, I understand why the glow surrounding your relationship with Bloc Party may have diminished in the last few years. Maybe the electronic textures and claustrophobic atmosphere of the quartet’s last LP Intimacy (2008) weren’t your cup of tea. And maybe you indulged frontman Kele Okereke’s outright electro-dance solo effort The Boxer (2010) and its half-crap/half-amazing lead single “Tenderoni” all while craving more of the spiky guitars and tightly-wound rock grooves that made Bloc Party a band worth rallying around in the mid-aughts.
Bloc PartyFour[Wichita / Frenchkiss; 2012]By Rob Hakimian; August 22, 2012Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetIt’s been four years since Bloc Party released an album; a significant amount of time considering that the band released their first three albums in a shorter span than that. In the interim most members went off to focus on other projects, both musical and personal, and it was never guaranteed that the band would return at all. But, still harboring a great deal of goodwill from the release of their debut album Silent Alarm, and a number of popular singles that have followed since, there was no way fans were going to let them go out that easily.
BLOC PARTY play the Danforth Music Hall September 10 and 11. See listing. Rating: NNN When Bloc Party debuted with Silent Alarm in 2005, they were one of a handful of bands cast in a Gang of Four-inspired mould: dance rock with a jagged edge, jittery rhythms that move your feet, liberally described as "angular." Many bands lived and died with the fad, but Bloc Party stuck it out by changing up their formula, alternately experimenting with electronic overtones and tender balladry.
Four begins with a false start: a stray thud on the drums and a snatch of studio tape in which Bloc Party frontman Kele Okereke says, in a voice of surprise: "Oh, have you got that already?" It's a moment of cunning theatricality, introducing the reinvigorated Bloc Party as a live band – a band who don't pre-programme dance beats, but plug in and rock out. Sure enough, on opening song So He Begins to Lie, Russell Lissack pummels his guitar as though it were a punching bag; 3x3 is pop-metal for the Twilight generation, with Okereke hissing over distorted riffs; while Kettling eulogises the 2011 riots with a solo that spirals out of control. They hit a peak with Team A, a street brawl of limber bass and volatile guitar, but plunge a low every time the pace slackens.
The waters have been choppy for the members of Bloc Party in recent years. After lighting the indie world on fire with their 2005 debut, Silent Alarm, the artful post-punks branched out from their math-like guitar rock ways with mixed results, and by 2008’s Intimacy, the band (having more or less turned a new musical leaf into more expansive electronic territory) had been reduced to an odd shell of its former self. The band’s 2009 hiatus only cast further doubt as to when, if ever, the Bloc Party of old would return.
As long as they've been around, Bloc Party have had an insistence on putting divisive political bents on their purely populist hooks. But in another sense, that strident power-to-the-people ethos is exactly what made Bloc Party the one post-punk revivalist band in the early aughts most likely to succeed in the long-term. They believe in disrupting Conventional Authority and empowering the Individual, and their most successful record by a long shot, Silent Alarm, was a similar-minded flurry of elbows jockeying for a larger share of the limelight.
With their heart-on-sleeve lyricism and towering guitar melodies, Bloc Party has never been known for ambiguity. Which is why it might come as a surprise that their latest offering, Four, is such a murky affair, beset by the same uncertainty that plagued the band prior to the album's release. While questions surrounding Bloc Party's potential breakup have slowly dissipated, for the first time in their decade-long existence, the band seems genuinely uncertain as to what kind of music they want to make.
The smart money says the title of Bloc Party's new album is a reference to the fact that it's the fourth album made by the original four members. Less likely is the possibility that it's also an acknowledgement of the four contentious years that have passed since their last LP, Intimacy, which included rumors that the band was breaking up or even considering moving on without Kele Okereke. The implicit solidarity pledge makes sense since the bulk of Four is built from the same elements as 2005's Silent Alarm, by far their most popular album-- sharp, pugilistic dual-guitar interplay, Okereke's S.O.S.
The band that gave us the golden post-alterna gems Silent Alarm (2005) and A Weekend in the City (2007) returns after four years with their fourth album casually named Four, and if the title seems like easy street, its 12 tracks follow suit with the nonchalance. Opener "So He Begins to Lie" kicks off with a false start in one of those recording bloopers bands often save for personality interims, and the album is never able to build its momentum as it gets jostled between a fight over noise rock and soft sleeper cells. .
Indulge me for a moment in a bad lyrics scavenger hunt. I’ve compiled for your viewing pleasure a mish-mash of them, all taken from each and every song on Bloc Party’s latest release, Four. I won’t tell you which song each lyric comes from, because not only does it ruin the game entirely, but it also doesn’t matter in the slightest.
‘It’s good, but it’s no ‘Silent Alarm’.’That’s one statement anyone with an internet connection and even a passing interest in Bloc Party will have read more than once. A debut album that marked the quartet out as both brilliant and most likely smarter than their peers, in retrospect it’s easily one of the stand out records of its era. Since its release, it’s gone on to become almost mythical.
TREY SONGZ “Chapter V”. (Songbook/Atlantic).
After a long hiatus in record label limbo and multiple side projects, it seemed that Bloc Party might call it quits. But the two years off were two years spent well, and the band is back with a bit of a vengeance on its fourth album, simply titled Four. The straightforward title leaves nothing to be assumed, and the band could have gone in either direction with its next musical endeavor—back to its indie-rock roots or continuing on the electronic path of its most recent albums.
Four may be 2012’s most exciting guitar album – who would have predicted that? Jaime Gill 2012 Bloc Party’s unpredictability has always been admirable, emerging as they did from the hopelessly conformist, misnomered world of ‘indie’. Leaping to fame with the inventive but guitar-bound Silent Alarm debut, frontman Kele Okereke soon began dragging the band ever deeper into electronica. It was a journey that most fans – and ultimately his band – decided not to accompany him on.
Bloc Party would really like you to know how authentic their fourth album is. It opens with studio chatter, reassuring Matt Tong drumming and screeching amp, and later gets interlaced with impromptu snippets of conversation, including frontman Kele Okereke's thoughts on turkey breast and baby spiders. From the off, the band seems keen to stress that this is four guys, recording to tape, free of adornments and, hey, still rockin'! That sense of having something to prove runs through the simply titled Four, from its no-nonsense production and title, to its amps-to-eleven loud bits.