Thursday, August 21, 2008
Review: Bloc Party - Intimacy
Bloc Party is pretty much one of my favorite bands in the world. I've said that a lot of times on this blog, but now it seems like I say it more in defense than in pride. After a day spent spinning their new record Intimacy, it looks like I'm going to have to continue saying it for the former reason.
When The Raconteurs released Consolers of the Lonely, they were criticized for using their rapid release strategy to cover up a less-than-stellar album. Bloc Party's strategy of announcing an album Monday and releasing it three days later might have more to do with their second album being leaked three months before its official release than mediocre quality, but you have to wonder if more time might've given them some perspective on this record.
To a certain extent, the opening track of every official Bloc Party album can describe the quality and feeling of the entire album. Those three tracks ("Like Eating Glass" "Song For Clay(Disappear Here)" and "Ares") are world apart. Silent Alarm was a party throughout, Weekend was the aftermath of that party, and now Intimacy doesn't seem like it knows what it is. It careens through a bunch of different feelings, much more incoherent than its predecessors.
Kele Okereke has said that the album is the first to really be about personal experience, having been recorded after a breakup. To be honest, I can't really tell that's the case at all. There's nothing here that tells me it's a breakup album, or that it's more genuine in terms of emotion that past albums. Songs like "Sunday" off their last record were more compelling than "Biko" here.
I hate to say it, but Kele Okereke has really started to turn the band into his own show, and that's not at all a good thing. The strength of Matt Tong, Russell Lissak, and Gordon Moakes make up a fearsome trio that were on equal pegging with Okereke's lyrics on their first album, and managed to stay afloat over the course of the Weekend album and b-sides. Here, Okereke hogs the spotlight, and not even the fantastic drumming of Tong shines through.
Anyone that questions "Halo" as the best track on this record doesn't have any ears. It's the track that links the best through their career and seems to step forward at the same time. "Biko" holds interest for a while, "Trojan Horse" is another standout, and the album closes on a great note with "Ion Square." Even first single "Mercury" seems much better and less of a crazy one-off departure in light of the context of the rest of the album. What seems to be lost is the element that makes "This Modern Love" my favorite Bloc Party song: the ability for that dynamic shift from soft to loud, slow to fast, calm to frenetic. Bloc Party isolate themselves to one or the other on these songs, maybe dabbling in a tiny element of the other here and there. I still found a lot to like on the record, and I'm sure it will grow on me in the way A Weekend in the City did for me two years ago, but right now I'm sort of scratching my head a little bit.
Like with most bands, I get a little annoyed when people complain that they should do the same thing over and over again. These guys aren't going to produce Silent Alarm for the rest of their lives, and we'd hate them for hitting the same note too many times. That hypocrisy aside, I just don't like the stretching they've done here as much as I have before. There are little bits that impress, and "Halo" goes immediately up with their best tracks, but for a bulk of the album's 45 minute run time, I feel like Bloc Party sound a way they never have before: forgettable.
I'm going to come back to the album in a day or so and write more reactions, and I can see myself justifying a lot of the problems I have with the album right now. This just seems like how a lot of people will react to the album at first, but I'm a big enough fan of the band to see how it grows on me after a bunch of listens.