I am not a Bloc Party fan. I am a fanatic. In my opinion, “Silent Alarm,” the band’s 2005 album, is a work of pure lyrical and musical genius. With notable hits such as “This Modern Love” and “Banquet,” this album rose to No. 3 on the UK charts and garnered significant commercial success and critical acclaim on both sides of the pond.
Needless to say, I was one among millions impatiently awaiting Bloc Party’s sophomore attempt, which dropped on Feb. 5. Entitled “A Weekend in the City,” this album was already tagged in my head as the music event of the month, maybe of the year. The masses seemed to agree, as the album rose to No. 2 in the UK and Australia and even No. 12 in the States.
I even went as far as buying the album on iTunes because it was available a day earlier there. This says volumes about my expectations: I haven’t purchased music in a couple of years and then it was only to buy “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?”
I listened to the singles first, “The Prayer” (UK) and “I Still Remember” (US) and was surprisingly disappointed. Maybe that is not the right word. I was destroyed, distraught and in complete dysphoria. Where was the band that I had championed as the next evolution of mainstream alternative rock?
All of the spiky guitar that had dominated the first album and made so many tracks from “Silent Alarm” memorable was nonexistent. In fact, it was not the style of guitar that had vanished, but the instrument itself. These tracks seem to be almost entirely mechanical drum beats (uncharacteristic of drummer Matt Tong) and vocalist Kele Okereke’s loud talking.
Judging from these two tracks, Okereke simply forgot how to sing between 2005 and 2007 and thus opted to not even try but to instead shout and hope it came out right. His voice was never top notch, but its rawness coupled with stunning lyrics made up for that minor flaw.
Furthermore, the subdued guitar and bass makes for a lackluster performance that was wildly incongruous to my expectations.
I didn’t want to keep listening. I even almost gave up on the album as a whole after hearing those two tracks. But a friend reminded me that it wasn’t fair to compare the new album against the old one, “Silent Alarm:” it is simply too good to expect the same every time.
Bloc Party, like most good bands, has a way of growing on a listener. Thus, upon digging deeper, I discovered the best of the album. “Kreuzberg” and “Hunting for Witches” star Russell Lissack creating the Joy Division-esque riffs that I longed for and the more melodious vocals that I needed to invest more time in the album.
Upon further inspection, the album is not worse than the previous, just wildly different. “A Weekend in the City” provides a more varied sound: at times reminiscent of “Silent Alarm” (think Soundgarden or Cure) but breaking their mold in tracks such as “Uniform” to impart a more metered U2ish sound. In many ways it is not what I expected, nor initially wanted, but as I first assumed, this is an album to buy, keep and cherish everyday.
Burnett is a member of the class of 2010.