Sunday, April 08, 2007

Stumbling Bloc

How to put this? Broadly speaking, I like the new Bloc Party album - but it also irritates me in a number of ways.

For a start, there's the fact that it's been billed as something of a concept album, a portrait of life in London in 2007. In each song Kele Okereke deliberately sets out to address a different topical issue. It all feels rather contrived and a bit pretentious, and certainly enhances rather than detracts from their reputation as overly earnest and po-faced young men.

Their debut Silent Alarm gradually came to seem rather joyless in its seriousness, and A Weekend In The City is much the same. That wouldn't necessarily be a problem if the way Okereke tackled the issues was engaging and interesting - but unfortunately his lyrics are all too often a bit naff, veering too close to Sixth Form poetry (see 'Hunting For Witches' and 'Uniform' in particular).

But this too could be overlooked if it was a musically remarkable album - but on the whole it's not. Sadly, just as I feared, the stand-alone single 'Two More Years' set out the blueprint for what was to come next - A Weekend In The City is slicker and poppier than Silent Alarm, with the two things I particularly loved about the latter - the clever post-punk guitar lines and Matt Tong's effervescent drumming - at something of a premium. 'I Still Remember' is a case in point: decent enough, but neat and distinctly radio-friendly, a definite shuffle in the direction of the mainstream. A shame, because they're at their most interesting when operating at the margins.

A Weekend In The City's two real high points are 'On' (aka the one about drugs) and 'Kreuzberg' (aka the one in which Okereke lays his soul bare about his confused sexuality). Both repeat the trick of SWSL Single Of The Year 2005 'So Here We Are', building to a moment of epiphany. 'On' blooms into a gorgeous warm chorus which captures the feeling of coming up, while 'Kreuzberg' is even more striking for the way in which the music is sympathetic to Okereke's tale of infatuation and bitter post-coital disappointment.

Just a shame that the rest of the album isn't as good.


Del said...

I know what you mean. I like a lot about the album, but it is flawed in places. I found 'Uniform' particularly hard going! But I really like 'Waiting For The 7.18' (having lived on the Northern Line for 2 years!) and 'Sunday'.

They strike me as a band who are still finding their feet, and perhaps trying a little too hard. Lost more good stuff to come from them in the future, I'm sure.

Ben said...

'Waiting For The 7:18' is indeed a good 'un - it's the chorus and the "Let's drive to Brighton on the weekend" climax. 'Sunday' has one of those perfectly tailored guitar solos, but it's all a bit tame. 'Where Is Home?' has a bit more edge about it, but lyrically I find it rather clunky.

"Trying a little too hard" - I agree. The first album seems a bit more natural.