Whatever happened to Bloc Party, ey? Debut effort Silent Alarm suggested that the band had great things ahead of them, managing to sound both familiar and fresh at the same time.
Follow-up release A Weekend in the City, however, was a shocking disappointment, despite some favourable critical reaction. High on production values, but low on ideas, the record saw the band squeezing out tired riffs and frontman Kele Okereke writing some seriously cringe-inducing lyrics. Of course, it was possible that they were experiencing second-album jitters. In addition, the record was produced by Jacknife Lee, who has quite the knack for making formerly good bands shit (see recent
Lee-produced efforts by Snow Patrol, Editors, Weezer and The Hives).
With Silent Alarm producer Paul Epworth
back on board, albeit in a partial capacity, splitting production duties with Lee, third release Intimacy wasn’t an entirely
unpleasant prospect. Originally made available to download back in August,
it saw its physical release last week.
The question is, then, does the album herald a return to the Bloc Party of old or is it the next step on the road to stadium-filling mediocrity? In a strange way, it’s a bit of both. First single “Mercury,” sounds strange in the same, interesting way that many of the highlights of Silent Alarm sound. There are some nice electronic flourishes on the record as well, such as the Fourtet-isms of “Signs” and the New Order drum machine on “Biko.”
The band are on flying form on tracks like “Trojan Horse” and “Halo,” belting out crowd-pleasing riffs. The only problem
is that, three albums in, one feels that they’ve already done that kind of thing to death and, as with A Weekend in the City, there’s a distinct lack of invention. Okereke’s
lyrics are similarly uninspired and often resemble the scrawlings of an angst-ridden schoolboy. His delivery has taken a turn for the annoying and there are many tunes here that would have been perfectly fine were it not for his theatrical wailing.
Bloc Party certainly showed promise
four years ago, however, at this stage, they’re in real danger of never fulfilling that potential. Hugh McCafferty