Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Bloc Party: "Four" (album review)

Bloc Party burst onto the scene in 2005 with a taut, frenetic debut album that challenged and delighted listeners.  Since then it's been a case of diminishing returns.  Each subsequent album has been less engaging, leading the band to take time off.  Things hit rock bottom when lead singer Kele Okereke released a wretched solo record.

Now the band have regrouped, hopefully ready to recapture the magic with their new studio album, aptly titled Four.

The first thing that strikes you is that the group have taken a heavier approach this time around.  Guitars grind from the very beginning with the opener "So He Begins To Lie".

Just when you think the guitar onslaught has hit it's peak with the hard rocking "Kettling", Bloc Party takes things a step further on "Coliseum".  That track is a full-on heavy metal rampage, with a deep bottom end groove.

Bloc Party makes a few attempts to create atmospherics as well.  Unfortunately, songs like "Real Talk", "Day Four", and the emoting "The Healing" fall far short of the mark, straying into the territory of blandness.  We are treated to something of a minor hook on "V.A.L.I.S.", but "Octopus" leaves you scratching your head with Kele's attempt at cutesy vocals.

While never quite reaching their previous heights, there are a handful of tracks that come close.  The sharp, precise "Team A" and the tense pull of "Truth" are both on point.

Even after a hiatus and reset Bloc Party are obviously straining in the shadow and promise of their early work.  Four is the schizophrenic musical equivalent at throwing shit at the wall and hoping some of it sticks. Maybe it's time to call it quits for good.

Bloc Party play the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto on September 10th & 11th.

Best tracks: "Team A", "Truth"

Track listing for Four:
  • So He Begins To Lie
  • 3x3
  • Octopus
  • Real Talk
  • Kettling
  • Day Four
  • Coliseum
  • V.A.L.I.S.
  • Team A
  • Truth
  • The Healing
  • Were Not Good People

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