This Bloc Party article was written by Simon Carline, a GIGsoup contributor
Remember the mid-noughties? Remember when you couldn’t move in HMV for the copious amounts Indie rock that wore the influences of bands like The Strokes on their sleeves? Remember when NME had a ‘hot new indie band you just have to hear’ on the front cover each week? It was a somewhat saturated genre by the middle of the decade; if you were to have any sort of longevity and stand out amongst the identikit you’d better have something special about you and have more than just the ‘jagged indie’ string to your bow.
Some of those UK bands at the time, like Maximo Park, The Cribs and The Futureheads, have stuck with it and maintained a steady following, never really scaling the initial heights whilst the Arctic Monkeys and, later on, The Maccabees and Foals have grown and grown by constantly evolving. Bloc Party fall somewhere in the middle of those two scenarios.
Silent Alarm (2005)
To be fair to them, Bloc Party were always going to struggle to better their iconic ‘Silent Alarm’ debut. By opening with the massive ‘Like Eating Glass’ they issued a huge statement of intent; indicating that Silent Alarm wasn’t simply a home for the hit singles of ‘Banquet’ and ‘Helicopter’ to sit on. In fact, the vast majority of the album would have been single-worthy as they crafted a calling card that was led by Matt Tong’s often break-neck drumming style, effortlessly shifting between the blistering post-punk indie of those singles and the atmospheric swells of ‘So Here We Are’, ‘Blue Light’ and ‘Compliments’.
A Weekend in the City (2007)
2007 saw the thoughtful and earnest follow up of ‘A Weekend in the City’, an album centred around Kele Okereke’s lyrical content which dealt with the claustrophobia of city-life in London and blended the strengths of their debut with a tinge of electronic elements. Lowering the pace could easily have been a misstep for a band that won fans over with their penchant for the chaotic but thankfully the heightened emotions didn’t lead to a total lack of urgency. The frantic numbers, like ‘The Prayer’ and ‘Hunting For Witches’, showcased why Matt Tong and Gordon Moakes became so well respected as a rhythm section whilst ‘Waiting for the 7:18’ and ‘Sunday’ further displayed their prowess in the Starry-Eyed. It was the dancey-crossover hit of ‘Flux’ that would serve as more of an indicator of where Bloc Party were headed after ‘A Weekend in the City’ though.
The third album, ‘Intimacy’, was announced and released within just 3 days. Predominantly built on the dance elements of ‘Flux’ for the majority of its tracks, ‘Intimacy’ was thought to be led by multi-instrumentalist Gordon Moakes. Inspired and liberated, they blended a Chemical Brothers-esque vibe with what sounded like their noisey take on The Beatles’ ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ on the opening track ‘Ares’. The noisey and the brash was prominent throughout lead single ‘Mercury’ too as the band delved into using Okereke’s looped vocals as an extra instrument. There were still quieter moments and the odd spikey Guitar line on ‘Intimacy’ but, as hinted at by remix albums of their first two albums, Bloc Party were now more than an Indie band as their experimentation with drum machines and electronic beats came to the fore. For the most part, they pulled it off admirably.
Four years passed before Bloc Party followed up ‘Intimacy’, owing mostly to a period of hiatus in which the band fulfilled other interest’s including Okereke’s solo effort, ‘The Boxer’. When they did eventually return with the appropriately titled ‘Four’, it was with slightly mixed results. ‘Four’ saw the band retreat from the use of electronics, deviating back to a sound that was more reminiscent of their debut. As can often happen when bands revert back to a winning formula, there were moments that sounded a touch contrived but it was by no means a disaster. Largely built around the guitar work of Russell Lissack, ‘Four’ found Bloc Party at their heaviest with songs like ‘Kettling’ and the blistering ‘We Are Not Good People’ whilst ‘So He Begins to Lie’ and ‘Octopus’ are perfectly fine examples of what drew people into them initially before they themselves discovered the depths of their talents.
The ability and willingness to cross over genres and styles is part of what has gained Bloc Party the longevity that they’re still enjoying to some degree. The sheer breadth of their musical scope should certainly be commended because, let’s face it, we’re not still talking about Hard-Fi ten years on are we? The days of them writing killer albums from top to bottom are long gone but they will have one mighty fine ‘Best of’ when the time comes.