In my younger and more formative years…
I’m just kidding. Let me start again. When I was just graduating high school, and for the first couple of years after, we spent our Thursday and Saturday nights at Jacksonville’s Art Bar, TSI, and the Pearl. Fueled by Pabst and hormones, we would dance until our feet quit working and all we wanted afterwards was a big, nasty slaw dog from the street vendor outside. Bloc Party was a staple during those days and I look back fondly in between moments of cringing from picturing what my actual dance skills probably looked like. “Helicopter” and “Banquet,” from their debut Silent Alarm could usually be heard creeping through the cracks of the dingy buildings. We are far removed from those days and so are the London four-piece.
Track one of their new release, Four, “So He Begins To Lie”, starts off with in-studio talking among band members. When bands do this I’m not exactly sure what message they’re trying to convey. Is it to show that the album was recorded live in the studio? Is it just an obvious Easter egg for fans to have a behind the scenes feeling? Everything gets thrown into Pro-tools anyway, so point, click and cut that 10 seconds from the final product. I didn’t mean to rant, but I do feel better now. Regardless of that, the first track comes off sounding a bit like a b-side from Coheed and Cambria’s In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3. I love that album so the comparison is meant to be positive.
Track 3, “Octopus,” is when this album starts to remind me of the Bloc Party I remember. Dancey beats, quick, trembling guitars and singable vocals should get your hips shaking and if that doesn’t work just start guzzling cheap beer. Front-man Kele Okereke drops the tempo on “Real Talk” which sounds like it features a banjo in the second verse. Interesting chord progressions hit notes that make it a somewhat spooky sounding song, but not unenjoyable.
“Coliseum” has a slide guitar throughout most of it and, I kid you not, I can’t listen to this song without laughing and singing Days of the New’s “Touch, Peel, and Stand”. If you were born after 1997, don’t worry about this reference. If you look up that song it will not be funny, and only mildly enjoyable.
Following that is “V.A.L.I.S.”, which is probably my favorite track on the record. I think it was made abundantly clear in the review I did for Psychic Friend that I am a sucker for super-catchy, poppy songs. It’s true and I will not apologize for it. Come to think of it, this song is along the same lines of Coheed and Cambria’s “Feathers”. The two bands could tour together…
“Team A” and “Truth” bring more of the same danceable goodness, before the album ends with a full-on rocker titled “We Are Not Good People.” It’s a great song but (and maybe its just me) I find it a little difficult to take it too seriously with Kele’s British accent. It’s adorable and I just want to pinch his cheeks when he tries to sound tough.
All in all this is an outstanding effort. Enjoyable from beginning to end, especially the danceable ones. On the other hand, I appreciate what they’re trying to do with songs like the first and last track, but there are other bands out there that have been doing it longer and are doing it better. We love Bloc Party for making us dance, not for melting our faces off. Play to your strengths, guys. You’re awesome.
– Broken Birdie –