This review was first
published on CLUAS in 2005
Other albums reviewed in 2005
A review of their album 'Silent Alarm'
Much-hyped indie newcomers debut album arrives, indie kids shake their collective bootys.
The CLUAS Verdict? 7 out of 10.
In the freshman indie classrom the Libertines mess at the back, Franz Ferdinand are the cool kids winking at the girls, Interpol are stare mournfully out the window, and the Killers are attentive but arrogantly bored. These quiet new kids might just be the smart ones...
Bloc Party seemed to come out of nowhere at the end of last year - an appearance on Jools Holland's show and a stuffed Whelans gig later and they're the (latest) hottest property in indie rock.
Pushed by NME, the latest 'Coolest band in rock' rode in on a hype fuelled wave of 'next big thing' publicity with their debut album, Silent Alarm. Trumpeted as the new slant on the new wave of britrock, Bloc Party arrived with scene preconceptions to deliver sharp, cool, riff based indie pop, with danceable singles and a pair of nice shoes as standard.
Discovered after sending tapes to Alex Kapranos, Bloc Party come across as confident, ambitious, energetic, skilled and driven. Sometimes it can seem like the guitars are a little TOO perfect and clinical, and overall their sound seems very 'worked-out', (there's no weird time signatures, no mad musical experiments, and probably not too much drugs...) but there's nothing wrong with any of that is there?
First track 'Like eating glass' says everything you need to know about Bloc Party in about four minutes. Atmospheric sounds. A rhythm section that most bands would die for. Choppy, sparkly guitars. Lyrics that you're never really sure are crap or not, sung in a 'cool' fashion. This is the formula for the first four tracks on Silent alarm, forming possibly the best opening sequence on an album this year, and all will probably be singles.
Helicopter is fantasticly spikey punk-pop, TRY not to dance to 'Positive Tension', and 'Banquet' is an early runner for single of the year. All these standards are here, with a mix that is both vicegrip tight and with space to groove to. (I mean, you'll probably be doing a stunted robot style dance to it, but you'll have to get up regardless..)
By track six, the brilliant indie disco beat of 'She's Hearing Voices', it's obvious that apart from being one of the coolest looking bands around and having a tightrope blend of tight retro and sharp modern, the real dynamite work here is Matt Tong's drum work. His patterns effortlessly push this album throughout, elevating the tracks with a sense of urgency and subtle drive that, when locking with the Bass on tracks like 'Pioneers' and 'Luno' really breathe life into the songs.
The first half of the album is fantastic, a stunning blend of the current 'Punk-Funk' vogue, and despite a few dodgy lyrics here and there, quite thrilling and original, in places bringing bands as varied as the Pixies and the Police to mind. The second half however doesn't have the hooks, doesn't have the depth and doesn't have the tunes.
When Kele Okerere sings out, it exposes the weaknesses in his voice and displays the lack of depth that can sometimes appear in their music. If it weren't for Russel Lissack's effects-laden guitar exploring on the later tracks one could loose interest altogether. 'So here we are' is a missed opportunity, relying on repetition instead of a hook, too sappy and twinkly to really engage the listener, and with the skip-button-ready 'Price of Gas' and 'Compliments' one of the poorer tracks.
The format of Bloc Party songs is straightforward, simple songs, cool guitar bits with bridges, with added studio tricks, powerful breakdowns and neat twists. When it works it's energetic, challenging, stylish and brilliant. When it doesn't, it's average, and when people who don't like them point this out, the best tracks on this album more than make up the difference. Bloc party are a good band, and Silent Alarm is a pretty good album.
Their report card near the beginning of term? 'Room for improvement, but a very promising start'.
Check out a slightly more positive review of this album.