It's been four years since Bloc Party's last record, the electro-infused Intimacy. In that time lead singer Kele Okereke set off on a dance solo project, and the band threatened first with a break-up then a possible future without Kele. Though four years since a successful and well-received album hardly qualifies as a “comeback,” Bloc Party clearly has something to prove on the new Four.
Bloc Party's first record, Silent Alarm, is one of the few from the mid-2000's post-punk revival that's still talked about with hushed reverence. Their 2nd and 3rd may have sold more copies, but where they sound very much like products of their time, Silent Alarm still has that feeling of “something new.” So it makes sense for Bloc Party to return to the preposterously tight and lean guitar-driven sound that made them so beloved in the first place. Four features no drum machines, and synths are used only sparingly, as in the haunting “Day Four.”
But instead of a retread of Silent Alarm, the album finds the band returning to their roots as a means to explore new avenues and influences. There's some Minus the Bear guitar manipulation on the fantastic lead single “Octopus,” garage-blues stomp on “Colosseum,” and the blaring “3x3” is shades of Muse. (I don't care that Twilight turned Muse into a household name and into a dirty word in indie circles. They'll always be the band that made Absolution to me.) But the most startling change is the post-hardcore influence bassist Gordon Moakes has brought into the mix. Fresh off his post-hardcore side project Young Legionnaire, he injects the songs with a harder edge. Hell, there are breakdownson this record.
For all of it's welcome experimentation, Fouris at it's best when Bloc Party gets down to the business of sounding like Bloc Party. “V.A.L.I.S.” features the quartet at their tightest in years, with some of Kele's best lyrics; a list of the qualities you don't want to see in the man your ex is with now. It's funny, clever, and heartbreaking all at once. Kele has grown considerably as a singer in the 7 years since they first exploded into public consciousness. When he uses his new vocal heft in service of the smartly oblique but heartfelt lyrics that made Silent Alarm so electric, he proves that Bloc Party aren't just welcome back, we still need them around.
- Words by Nathan Leigh
Banner photo by Joe Papeo