Bloc Party, A Weekend in the City

I have been aware of Bloc Party and the odd one of their bigger singles for a while now, but it was only late last year that I finally clambered clumsily onboard their bandwagon and got a copy of their debut, Silent Alarm. Suitably impressed, I’ve recently got my hands on a copy of their second album, A Weekend in the City, produced by Jacknife Lee. They are an interesting band, and their music seems to somehow combine cohesively a fairly broad sweep of elements from a number of other popular modern bands. Jagged guitar riffs ala Franz Ferdinand? Check. Electronic dabbling ala Radiohead on one of their more “rock” days out? Check. Rock anthems not dissimilar to that which U2 once dished out on a regular basis? Check.


Song for Clay (Disappear Here) kicks off the album in a relatively sedate fashion, at least until just over a minute in, when the anticipated guitar riffs are unleashed, backed by some fairly urgent percussion. The third single released from the album Hunting For Witches kicks off next, with another urgent rhythm, and a spidery arpeggio repeating throughout the track. Third track Waiting for the 7:18 is one of my favourite tracks on the album, nostalgia-drenched and effortlessly building up towards a fairly anthemic climax. The track does manage to capture some of the existential sentiments that one can’t help feeling as a seemingly perpetually busy Londoner.

The Prayer was a bit of an odd track to pick as the first single off the album, for mine. Although I don’t mind it, it probably wouldn’t be in the first three tracks I would release as singles from this album. It’s a bit too discombobulated and seems held back some how by the juddering verses. Uniform poses as a ballad until about halfway through the track, when the pace picks up abruptly and the band adds some backing vocals that quite memorably, recall the voice of Soundwave from the Transformers cartoon series. I still can’t decide if it is a cool effect or naff, but more inclined to think the latter. On and Where Is Home> delve into a bit more studio trickery. On, unlike the previous track, really is a ballad, and quite a pretty one at that.Kreuzberg is a pretty track that quite strongly recalls colleagues Coldplay with its softly-softly approach and icily chiming guitars, followed by anthemic single I Still Remember, which but for the occasional dubious lyric, can not be that far off being the perfect pop-rock single. Lightweight, but brilliant.

Fourth single Flux is the closest thing to dance music on the album, driven by an electronic beat, with lead-singer Kele Okereke’s vocals distorted in accordance with the stereotypical rave track textbook. The album finishes with more of a whimper than a bang, with Sunday managing to be quite pretty without being particularly memorable, and SRXT droning on a bit, before surging towards an unexpectedly anthemic climax, with the band in full hair rock mode and what sounds like a choir in the background. A strange end, to be sure.

All in all this is quite a decent album, although I am not sure it warrants the accolades of the band’s debut. There are quite a few moments of brilliance on here, but they are surrounded in a bit of a pool of okay and so-so. The band’s energy on this album is likely to impress initially, but I have a feeling my interest in the album as a whole is set to wane, excepting of course those few moments of anthemic gold.

5 thoughts on “Bloc Party, A Weekend in the City

  1. I think that Bloc Party are indeed quite overrated. I don’t know, maybe I’m unfair to a lot of music, but I hear them plenty and to me they are yet another UK band that fall in to the ‘yeah, it’s ok’ category. ‘Ok’, but ‘ok’ isn’t something I’d ever base a CD purchase on.

    They give the impression of wanting to be a band with imporant things to say, but how important can those things be unless you the listener are also a hip young London thing?

    Perhaps, like the Killers and others, they’ve taken on board a bit of that U2 anthemic ethos, but the thing is, back in the day and once upon a very long time, U2 made interesting and moving music of a wide variety. The actual ‘anthemic rock’ made up a fairly small (and probably the least interesting) part of their catalogue.

  2. I think they are still finding their way – but if anything it does seem like they inevitably tend towards a very slightly left of mainstream position on the pendulum of rock. I don’t think they have the scope to have such a broad palette as U2 once did.

    The Killers are probably a good reference point – Bloc Party are slightly less mainstream than them, but broadly speaking they both “do” pop music with a the odd anthem thrown in.

    Might be better to make a couple of iTunes purchases of certain tracks from this band rather than buy a CD. That’s the sort of band they are – I have not been overwhelmed with either of their albums. Good, great in parts, but not great as a whole.

  3. I’m actually really wary of this instant-hype about bands based on their first album or two. I mean, I’ve seen Radiohead praised to the heavens on this same blog, and I concur: Radiohead are that good. But until The Bends – their second album and a good five years into their existence – nobody gave a crap about them. Arguably their high-water mark is Kid A, nearly a decade into their life as a band. This is not overnight stuff, and maybe it’s better that way.

    Bloc Party are certainly not a terrible band, but I’ve grown cranky in my old age, and although I reassure myself that every year there IS new music that moves and grabs me, every year the list of such music gets shorter.

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