Bloc Party – Four

22 Aug

Bloc Party was one of the most celebrated bands to emerge in the 2000s post-punk resurgence. Their stellar 2005 debut, Silent Alarm, slated them as one of the brightest newcomers to the indie music scene. What happened then? They released the front-heavy and largely overlooked A Weekend in the City in 2007 and a year later, they forced out Intimacy which appropriately sounded rushed. There were talks of disbandment after their “break-up album” but no formal break came to fruition. Lead singer Kele Okereke and bassist Gordon Moakes focused on a solo career and side-projects respectively.  Some fans suspected that Bloc Party had quietly dissolved but in September of last year they returned to the studio planning a fourth release. They released said album, aptly and/or lazily titled Four, earlier this week on Frenchkiss Records.

With the direction of their latest producer, Alex Newport, Bloc Party abandons both their earlier, punchy sound and Okereke’s later electronic leanings for a modern regurgitation of the past three decades of pop/rock. The album begins with a 3’11-esque riff on “So He Begins to Lie,” a song that is relatively catchy despite its clunky composition. The album’s second single, “Day Four,” recalls The Police and Okereke’s soulful, radio-friendly vocals are sullied only by their being sandwiched between two of the heavier songs on the album.

With the exception of the thumping “Kettling” which is an interesting combination of The Dismemberment Plan and Weezer, these heavier tracks ultimately weigh the album down (bad pun intended). “Coliseum” is the most egregious track, opening with garage blues a la White Stripes followed by a choppy transition into White Zombie hard rock. Though charged, “3×3” calls up bad Mars Volta, unsurprising as Newport produced their work as well.  These tracks make it feel like the proverbial was thrown at the wall in the hopes of sticking.

But Four is not without its moments. Bloc Party is made up of four more than capable musicians and a few of the new tracks are impressive in their ingenuity. The first single, “Octopus,” sounds like a British Kill the Moonlight-era Spoon with a fingered guitar solo that could have been lifted from Daft Punk’s “Aerodynamic.” “V.A.L.I.S.” brings Franz Ferdinand to mind in its shamelessly catchy pop sensibility and kudos to Okereke’s seamless inclusion of “meth amphetamines” and “phenomenology” in the song’s lyrics, a syllabic feat unto itself.

It’s possible that Four‘s seeming mediocrity is the result of a four-year wait and the selfish fan’s hope for another Silent Alarm, but allegedly the band had to whittle the album down from around seventeen tracks earlier this year and it’s hard to believe that these were the best twelve tracks that they were able to come up with. It becomes increasingly difficult to believe when the listener discovers that they omitted two pleasant, albeit conventional pop songs in “Mean” and “Leaf Skeleton,” offering them instead as bonus tracks. All said and done Four is not a total senior slump…it’s more of a “back to the drawing board” record.

Noteworthy Tracks: “Octopus” and “V.A.L.I.S.”

Rating:***

Ribbon dancers and seizures…enjoy!

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