I’ve always been in a love-hate relationship with Bloc Party. When they debuted in 2005 with Silent Alarm, I found vocalist Kele Okereke singing style rather irritating and the music incredibly repetitive. Then their follow-up A Weekend In The City hit in 2007, and I found that a lot more enjoyable. But since my musical tastes change, I’ve done a bit of a 180 towards their music and their style. Silent Alarm is one of my favorite albums of the past decade, and the two follow ups Weekend and Intimacy just kind of fell by the wayside for me.
Now, after a four year hiatus, the British indie quartet is back with their fourth outing, ironically entitled Four. And they sound better than ever – while taking some rather bold and unlikely risks along the way.
The first single “Octopus” is a complete throwback to Silent Alarm, with a fun chorus and a rhythm guitar hook played throughout the song. “Real Talk” is a down tempo head-in-the-clouds sort of song, strumming away to a rather trippy instrumentation. “Truth” and “The Healing” has Keke singing incredibly well and melodic – something that is pretty rare on this outing. Both of those songs are arranged gorgeously, making the back half of the album incredibly relaxing to listen to. “V.A.L.I.S.” is an indie pop dream, taking a heavy influence from their first album while being just as melodic from their sophomore effort. That makes, surprisingly, into a fantastic overall song, ready to be placed on future mixtapes.
The biggest thing about this album, which might be a make-it-or-break-it for long time fans, is the harder rocking songs scattered around Four. The first two tracks, “So He Begins to Lie” and “3×3″ remind me more of a thrash rock band than it does British indie-punk. I had to double-take to make sure that this was the right band my first time I listened to this album. The song “Coliseum” sounds like a Cage The Elephant song – starting with a country twang in the backing guitar, only to break out half way through in a post punk spaz. The final song “We Are Not Good People” is an all out punk jam, ready to start a mosh pit once the guitar kicks in(I can only imagine this being played live…wow). I guess the reasoning for this to sound like it does is because of the giant emphasis of Kele’s vocals and guitarist Russell Lissack’s riffs (“Coliseum” being a perfect example). Those two are mixed so high on this album that it’s hard to make out any bass at all (unless the guitars just do not play completely). This is kind of bothersome, but doesn’t take away from most of the twelve songs on the album.
I don’t know where Keke and Co. will go from here, but if Four is any indication, they’re here to stay. Bloc Party has refined their musicality to the umph degree, sounding like one of the best bands out there right now. Matt Tong’s rhythmic drumming is fantastic, and Kele’s lyrics and singing style finally fits the music perfectly – being both melodic and forceful when need be. Though they did have some big miscues from here to there, I found this album to be just as good as their 2005 debut. And however you feel about louder rock songs, maybe even better.
Final Grade: B+
Go Download: “V.A.L.I.S.”