Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bloc Party - Intimacy

I’m going to assume that the note of irony in the title is intentional. I think by any measure this outing feels even more dissociated and sterile than either 2005’s breakthrough Silent Alarm or 2007’s controversial follow up A Weekend in the City. Riskier and more expansive, the band has done a lot of experimenting here and the results are a mixed bag.

Producing a critically acclaimed album tends to have the unfortunate side effect of boxing one in. When following up, if you stray from what fans expect, you’ll be accused of losing the plot. Conversely if you adhere too closely to the formula that brought success, you’ll be accused of making the same album again.

For many fans, the first two songs, Ares and Mercury, would probably fall into the losing the plot category. After a few listens, it seems to me, that what might be considered off putting about these songs is really the heavy influence of contemporary urban British music (somewhat of an acquired taste which doesn’t necessarily translate that well this side of the Atlantic: read Grime).

There’s plenty of vintage Bloc Party here though so fans needn’t worry too much. Halo the third song is everything that made the band so enjoyable- up tempo pop-punk influenced rhythm; angular guitars; and Kele Okereke’s signature almost emo vocal style. One Month Off and Talons hue a similar path. Signs and Biko, which means dear in the language of Okereke’s Nigerian heritage, are out and out ballads. Zephyrus is similarly ballad-ish but features choir arrangements over a minimal broken beat. The 8th note kicks and syth bass lines of Your Visit’s Getting Shorter and 2007’s Flux (which is included as a bonus track) prove that that electro(house)’s influence on pop is still significant.

I think this album has been unfairly maligned. The good folks at Pitchfork media compared it to My Morning Jacket's Evil Urges (which was similarly dismissed). To me this a solid release with the energy of Silent Alarm and the expansive production of A Weekend in the City

No comments: