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Bloc Party

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Artist Listing: A - F G - R S - Z
Line-up:
Kele Okereke - Vocals
Russell Lissack - Guitars
Gordon Moakes - Bass
Matt Tong - Drums


"What are you left with when you strip the social context from music born of alienation and frustration and create something sexy and cool? This time around, the latest Big Thing in rock: Britain's Bloc Party. The heartbeat of their sound is lifted from Gang of Four, a band that more than 25 years earlier tried to explode the sonic conventions of punk, attacking what they saw as a vapid bourgeois lifestyle with their jarring chords, staccato marching-band rhythms, and snide, self-righteous lyrics. Bloc Party, like Gang of Four, adopted a vaguely political name. But musically they have the opposite impulse, taming Gang of Four's innovations into well-crafted songs that will rock a party. Gang of Four's jerky rhythms were once confusing, but the lens of hip-hop and drum'n'bass has made Bloc Party's similar syncopations a lot easier for the contemporary listener to compute; their four-on-the-floor snare-drum-and-high-hat sections evoke the hands-in-the-air rushes of house music. Bloc Party borrow the soaring melodic guitar lines of Television and sinuous noodling of New Order and the Cure to add a lushness that makes these songs sonically beautiful as well as rhythmically aggressive. Each verse and chorus add a new twist to the arrangements, often leaning heavily on old-fashioned guitar special effects like echo and phase-shifting for variety. The lyrics, sung loosely in the heartfelt, whiny style of the Cure's Robert Smith, are mostly about feelings: primarily (surprise) loneliness, heartbreak, angst, and alienation. Only snatches of words, such as "Like drinking poison, like eating glass" or "You are the bluest light," stand out, creating an early-New Order-like stream of impressions rather than a narrative. Breaking almost entirely from the polemics of Gang of Four, Bloc Party make only one song overtly political.
-- Chris Hawke , The Village Voice, 4/05

 Bloc Party Discography - Album / CD Reviews

*** 2004: Bloc Party EPaudio

"The quartet’s eponymous debut EP, actually a combination of their first two single releases -- She’s Hearing Voices and Banquet/Staying Fat -- is six songs of swellness. Don’t get your hopes up with Banquet. The opener is so good -- it’s so good -- that you might expect to be equally impressed with the rest. Russell Lissack’s guitars skipping around all Gang of Four-like in full dance-punk mode, Kele Okereke’s vocals hinted with a Damon Albarn-ish style, the song is one of the best this year. The dance remix that’s included, although it’s excellent, is superfluous; there’s plenty to dance to already. Staying Fat works with a good hook and great back-and-forth vocals, and a vibrating guitar that sends the song just over the two-minute mark does its job well. She’s Hearing Voice is Bloc Party’s big Joy Division moment, but it isn’t depression you’re feeling, and if Bloc Party can make you move to this kind of song, imagine what direction they’re headed in for their full-length. The Answer even manages to pull off vocals through a bull horn without sounding contrived. Despite the need to describe Bloc Party by invoking the most commonly referenced bands of the past few years, they remarkably don’t sound like anything else around right now. Like Franz Ferdinand, who they have toured with, and the Strokes, who they should supplant, their sheer pop writing ability supercedes any notion of being derivative."
-- jofixi, fasterlouder.com.au, 5/05


***½ 2005: Silent Alarmaudio

"It's already somewhat a given that Bloc Party are going to do very, very well indeed. Yet all the angular pop pickings and fiery live shows in the world couldn't have prepared us for this record. The detractors who expected sixty minutes of Gang Of Four covers are in for a shock. 'Silent Alarm' is a remarkably mature, expansive record. (...) The singles are by no means the sole highlights on 'Silent Alarm'. From the opener Like Eating Glass, it's clear that the bar has been set high. Shrill, grasping and desperate, its urgency sets the pace for the whole record, Kele Okereke's vocals ringing out like a frantic siren. Pioneers is wordlessly gorgeous, and old single She's Hearing Voices has been reproduced and tinted with a hollow, ghostly hue that replaces the original version's tinny sound. It's a trick that's echoed later on the soopafine Price Of Gas, arguably the record's peak. (...) Silent Alarm's not 100% filler-free - the forgettable So Here We Are could have slipped out the back with little protest - but the autonomy, creativity and sheer, elastic beauty that spans this debut more than justifies the rapidly accelerating hype that Bloc Party are currently generating. Any of the lazy comparisons that initially dogged them are firmly laid to rest beneath the floorboards of Silent Alarm; if Bloc Party ever sounded like the Strokes duelling with Gang of Four, they don't anymore. (...) More than the sum of its influences though, it's an addictive, pulsing and innovative record that confirms Bloc Party's status as one of our most essential bands and showcases how exciting British music is capable of being right now."
-- Gen Williams, drownedinsound.com, 2/05

*** 2007: A Weekend In The City

Tracklisting: 01. Song For Clay (Disappear Here) 02. Hunting For Witches 03. Waiting For the 7.18 04. The Prayer 05. Uniform 06. On 07. Where Is Home? 08. Kreuzberg 09. I Still Remember 10. Sunday 11. SRXT
"On their second album, post-punkers Bloc Party attempt to portray 48 hours in the life of their native London. Over 51 minutes of techno-tweaked rock, yelpy, tortured singer Kele Okereke takes on a mix of dreary characters, from powder-snorting hedonists (On) to bored blue-collar stiffs (Waiting for the 7:18). Too often, the music on 'A Weekend in the City' is less memorable than the ambitious subject matter. Still, drummer Matt Tong pumps out herculean disco-rock beats that'll work any nightclub into a froth."
-- Michael Endelman, Entertainement Weekly, 2/07

"Bloc Party's second album begins like an episode of Panorama, full of frowning portent and ambition to say something about The State of Britain Today. Unfortunately, grand statements are not earnest frontman Kele Okereke's forte. Powered by tirelessly inventive drummer Matt Tong, Bloc Party are maturing into a great art-rock band, moving from clobbering crunk-influenced beats (The Prayer) to tender techno ballads (On). But there's barely a song that isn't kneecapped by one of Okereke's lyrical clangers. Just one reference to "crosswords and sudoku" kills Waiting for the 7.18 stone dead, while Hunting for Witches, about fear of terrorism, is so gauche that you might find yourself feeling kindly towards John Reid. Yet when Okerere raises his game on I Still Remember's childhood reminiscences or Where is Home?'s hair-raising racial angst, Bloc Party are every bit as startling as they evidently want to be."
-- The Guardian , 2/07

**¾ 2008: Intimacy

Tracklisting: 01. Ares 02. Mercury 03. Halo 04. Biko 05. Trojan Horse 06. Signs 07. One Month Off 08. Zephyrus 09. Better Than Heaven 10. Ion Square
Musicfolio picks: Zephyrus, Ion Square
"...Ares sounds like a too-flamboyant, too-bad version of TV On The Radio, not unlike some tracks off Bloc Party’s 2nd release. On lead single Mercury Okereke’s vocal performance is just plain aggravating (glitched vocals during the chorus? Really?) but the song’s big drum beat and dissonant horns save it from being a totally bad song. It’s pretty catchy too. Another thing that shouldn’t be confused: The old Bloc Party hasn’t been completely forgotten about in this sea of textured guitar parts and synthesizers. Trojan Horse and Halo are both guitar-heavy rockers that would excite any mega-fan of 'Silent Alarm' . 'Intimacy' , as an album, is hit-or-miss. Bloc Party have made what seems like a natural progression into a more electronic style, but have still retained key elements from their past records. Okereke’s lyrics clearly center on one single break up, but 'Intimacy' is no Pinkerton. The lyrics are corny and simple too much of the time, and the music isn’t original or good enough to make this forgivable. Okereke is the center of attention, now that his band members have largely been replaced by machines, and most of the time he doesn’t deliver. In the end, Bloc Party was just never really that great of an “album band”. Just like their last two albums, 'Intimacy' features some good tracks (here, mostly ballads) but really isn’t the kind of album that one wants to go back and listen to a whole bunch. That said, it’s better than 'A Weekend in the City' , and shows potential. Maybe next time."
-- Dan, sputnikmusic.com, 8/08

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Recommended Links:

BlocParty.com
BlocParty.net
 
Similar/Related Artists:

Gang of Four | The Cure | Franz Ferdinand | Interpol | Hot Hot Heat | The Faint | The Bravery | White Rose Movement | New Order

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