Release Date: Aug 13, 2013
Record label: Frenchkiss Records
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Bloc Party has always seemed to take a liking to short releases. The Nextwave Sessions marks the sixth EP in the group’s discography, and they’ve never released an album containing more than 13 tracks. The succinct releases cut down on the filler and fixate the attention to the records that matter. The Nextwave Sessions presents five new Bloc Party tracks that the band wanted you to hear.
Bloc Party aren’t very good at dealing with pressure. When the London band are up against it, they do silly things like follow up their seminal debut album, 2005’s ‘Silent Alarm’, with an anxious-sounding record like 2007’s ‘A Weekend In The City; or tell NME their bandmates are recording without them and then attempt to deny the entire conversation, as frontman Kele Okereke did in 2011. But when Bloc Party are relaxed (well, as relaxed as the notoriously po-faced quartet ever really get), they make records like last year’s visceral and forward-looking ‘Four’, which was written after a lengthy, friendship-restoring hiatus.
If the title of The Nextwave Sessions isn’t doing a whole lot for you, that’s completely understandable. It’s the kind of literal, placeholder name usually stamped upon a stopgap release, “fans only, move along.” But let’s get a little Dan Brown with this and crack the code: Sessions. Wave. Next.
From the promising energy of Silent Alarm to the sputtering anxiety of last year's Four, Bloc Party has repeatedly refused to settle for repetition despite steady commercial success, consistently tweaking their aesthetic while flirting with increasingly complex lyrics, much of them rooted in issues of race and sexuality. Yet as admirable as these attempts have been, and as nice as it would be for the band to finally find solid footing, they've never been able to fully blend their incipient curiosity for new sounds with their primary goal of crafting catchy pop-rock. This trend is continued on The Nextwave Sessions, a scattershot EP showcasing five different facets of the band's sound, none of which feel especially solid or exciting.
"Just make it count". So goes the war cry that envelops ‘Ratchet’, one of Bloc Party’s more out there and thus polarising pop assaults. They’ve flirted with declaring war before, of course, only ‘Ratchet’ is a great deal more sarcastic and self-centred than the manic ‘Ares’. It’s stranger, too; a quite unwieldy number that finds Kele Okereke at full volume, gleefully spouting off colloquial lines against a potentially headache-inducing riff, the overall effect falling somewhere between innovative and ugly.
There has always been a duality to Bloc Party, one that fans, critics, and — most notably and unfairly — the band itself have forced to divide their music. One side has been the polyrhythmic, Wire-y post-punk romanticism, where right angle guitars and black blasts of rumbling bass drive the band’s occasionally awkward social indictments and social situations. The other side was some countryside intersection of U2, Coldplay, early ’00s emo, and Modst Mouse’s “Trailer Trash”.
Given their relatively unhurried attitude of late, The Nextwave Sessions EP comes relatively hot on the heels of Bloc Party’s recent comeback album Four, despite featuring tracks that have been a regular fixture of the band’s live sets for the past few months. As the four piece confirm they’ll be parting ways in the autumn on another indefinite hiatus, speculation abounds as to whether this will be their final release, or just their final release for a while. Regardless, The Nextwave Sessions EP explores further some of the sounds touched on on Four, and marks another step in the band’s continuing journey from four-piece guitar band to a fully fledged electronic rock outfit.
Bloc Party have announced they will be taking a hiatus of the somewhat indefinite variety at the end of their touring obligations this summer, but before they go their separate ways, they’re gracing us with five new songs. The Nextwave Sessions lacks the pure aggression of Four’s best moments, but that’s not a slight; this release just showcases yet another side of the U.K.’s most interesting post-punk band. “Ratchet” is a guaranteed dancefloor banger with an elastic guitar riff and paper-thin snare drum hits, a more organic version of anything on Intimacy.
opinion byBENJI TAYLOR “Unpigeonholeable”. It was a word used frequently – often by the band members themselves – to describe Bloc Party and their sound, back in 2005, when their star had begun its ascendancy. To some extent it was true: their debut Silent Alarm was a stunning mash-up of indie-rock and art-punk that fizzled with intelligence, striking just the right mix of post-punk seriousness and enticing melodic hooks.