Bloc Party: ‘Four’ Album Review
It’s been four years since Bloc Party’s last album, Intimacy, and the four piece are just about to release their fourth studio album, Four. Yep, the name is definitely fitting.
One of the best guitar albums of the last decade, Bloc Party’s debut album Silent Alarm had huge success with NME giving it Best Album of the Year in 2005, receiving a nomination for Mercury Prize and surely being one of the most covered groups by high school bands with tracks like ‘Helicopter’ and ‘Banquet’ sizzling with riffs of the highest calibre. Follow up album Weekend in the City was good, but not as good, and Intimacy was only just OK. Then came the shocking singles ‘Flux’ and ‘One More Chance’, leaving fans wondering what they could possibly have done to deserve such tripe. It wasn’t a surprise when the band unofficially split in late 2009 and saw lead man Kele Okereke go solo to dabble in reasonably well received dance pop.
After three and a bit years of hiatus, Bloc Party have ditched the synths and got their shredding faces back on, to the delight of many Vultures. In what could be described as a comeback album, Four is an absolute whopper. The first track, ‘So He Begins To Lie’, is driven by lead guitarist Russell Lissack’s ballsy riff, and held together by one of drummer Matt Tong’s classically tight beats. It’s an exciting start to the album, showing all the key traits of the Bloc Party of old: guitars, big beats and a fantastic, massive chorus. ‘3×3’ follows and is possibly one of Bloc Party’s all time darkest songs, with Gordon Moakes’ hugely ominous bass pumping in the chorus, reminiscent of vintage Muse.
Jittery ‘Octopus’ is disappointingly one of the least exciting tracks of the album, an unusual choice for the single, as it doesn’t really feel like it goes anywhere. It has some interesting guitars but dynamically doesn’t really give you that tingle in your dingle. ‘Real Talk’ follows, giving the listener a bit of reprised from the relentless riffs, with the gentle chords and slower beat swooning the listener. Okereke’s vocals soar in the chorus with a delightful gentleness.
Second single, ‘Day Four’, may initially have you humming the melody of ‘Every Breath You Take…’, as Bloc Party channel Sting’s sexual prowess, and the outro is pure bliss. Reverb arpeggios between Okereke and Lissack reek of classics like ‘So Here We Are’, soft violin strings tugging at your heartstrings with Okereke’s falsetto topping off probably the track of the album.
Like any good predator, Bloc Party waits til you’re at your weakest, then strikes, with country-esque rock monolith ‘Coliseum’ grabbing you by your assless chaps and giving you a good thumping, completely destroying the mood that the previous song set. Although the bigger tracks of the album are generally great, pairing the chilled tracks with the monsters straight after gets quite annoying and makes it difficult to relax into the listening experience. This is overly evident with mellow ‘The Healing’ being followed by a bit of amp hiss and then the hectic ball-tearer ‘We’re Not Good People’. With a thumping riff that would fit perfectly in between recent Arctic Monkeys and Them Crooked Vultures, as a final track it doesn’t really make sense. Yes, this album’s all about guitars and drums and feedback (which is fantastic), but it would have been nice to see a bit more finesse in the track ordering, as there is quite a big disparity between heavy and soft throughout the album. And the occasional bit of in-studio banter we can hear at the start of a few songs seems a bit contrived.
Nit-picking aside, it’s a huge sigh of relief to hear Bloc Party back on track. Although there are no standout singles, Four is a surprisingly strong album. It’s still no Silent Alarm, but it’s a bloody good racket. Four comes out on the 20th of August.