I get the feeling that Bloc Party are so much better than another young band trying out a set of New Wave stylizations.
Here's a theory that has been spinning around in my mind the last few days. And it has left me feeling awfully confused, let me tell you. The reason for my confusion is that I have been detailed to review Silent Alarm, Bloc Party's debut album and it has led to the strange move of me slightly criticising a great debut; due to the fact that I don't feel they deserve a review in which I witter on about what I think they've been listening to. Despite the fact that I feel they could do better. In my mind it shows a band either not fully aware of their potential - which, I may say, is huge – or it shows a band that are at a crossroads, (despite it being their fucking debut) unwilling to jettison aspects of their music that can best be descibed as trendy. You see, the problem in reviewing "trendy" albums is that you can all too easily fall into the trap of ticking off an immense (and increasingly smug) shopping list of influences; which I am as culpable of as the next reviewer, indeed, I ended up doing just that ad nauseum on the LCD Soundsystem release.
After seeing them live at London Calling last December, I was pretty well convinced that I was seeing a band of truely great potential. Maybe it is that their sense of acerbic otherworldliness – something that I was struck with when I saw them – doesnt successfully translate onto record. That's not to say that the songs are poor, far, far from it. Merely that they feel straight-jacketed into a sound du jour. Let me say to you that if you were to say to me that Silent Alarm reminds you of, (if you are old enough to remember or smart enough to have checked out), "Kilimanjaro", "17 Seconds" "69", or even " The Modern Dance"; then you would elicit a statement from me that would contain the words "bears" "shit" and "woods". Or "Pope" and "Catholic".
Nothing wrong with "Kilimanjaro", "17 Seconds", "69", or "The Modern Dance". Of course not. Absolutely nothing wrong with using them as a musical template. It's just that I get the feeling that Bloc Party are so much better than another young band trying out a set of New Wave stylizations.
Just to redress the balance I will say that many of the songs have a fluid urgency and sonic intelligence that has to be bettered by anyone around, such as "Positive Tension" or "Pioneers". There are moments that give an indication of what Bloc Party could be; stuff like that hair raising bit near the end of "Helicopter" when Russel Lissack's guitar run shoots off into Cocteau Twins territory. Unbelievable.
Ho humm... as you can see, it's been a bit of a slog in trying to descibe this album. I mean to say, most people are just going to listen to this and immediately (and without worrying unduly) categorise it as part of the retro 80s scene that's currently fashionable.
It's just that I think they are too good to be blithely lumped in with the also-rans.
I shall await developments with considerable interest.