Bloc Party – Intimacy

Posted October 24, 2008 in Music Reviews

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Of that elite group of post-punk revivalists and two-guitars-and-an-indie-haircut bands from 2004 and 2005 that struck it massive with their abrasive, propulsive sonic attacks, all have stumbled a little waywardly down the more commercial paths of 80’s new wave since their success. The Killers, Kings Of Leon and Razorlight have all become critically shipwrecked by the sirens of the U2 Effect, while those who have failed to adapt to a bigger sound, such as Franz Ferdinand, have found themselves stuck in something of a no-man’s-land. After Bloc Party’s sophomore effort ‘A Weekend In The City’ took the stadium-rock pretensions of the former, earning them a new audience and alienating much of the older one. However, the more worthwhile songs like ‘Hunting For Witches’ earned assumptions that Kele Okereke and company were still a clever band worth watching.

‘Intimacy’ is one of the bravest plays of a ‘big’ band in recent times. Firstly, the quartet rip up the 80s-centric template of their peers and establish a more forward-looking spin on 90’s Big Beat-styled production. Secondly, Intimacy is a truly experimental opus, in the least Radiohead sense of the word. Songs like Ares and Zephyrus show the same kineticism of the Bloc Party of old and familiar delayed guitars appear on Trojan Horse, but Okereke’s skewered, multi-tracked vocals, beats presumably gleamed from producer Jacknife Lee’s library, and out-of-the-box instrumentation like Zephyrus’s melodramatically reverberating choral chanting, and the lullaby vibraphone of Signs all add up to a distinctive Bloc-cocktail flavour not available anywhere else.
What is most brave about this soundsmithery is that it doesn’t always add up to an easy listening experience. Some songs, like the irritating A Letter To My Son and the oft-annoying vocal tics of Mercury lend the album a brash, unfinished edge that will certainly not be as immediately palatable for fans of the Edgeisms of I Still Remember. Intimacy is a patchy album, but it never drifts into the sleepy, snowy territory of Silent Alarm and A Weekend In The City. The main purpose of the album is that it reinstates faith in Bloc Party as a cerebral band not afraid to isolate for the sake of art. The band are equally wise to include songs like Halo and Trojan Horse to keep the feet of fans of Helicopter and Banquet on the indie-disco dancefloor. A chequered achievement.

See also: Chemical Brothers- Dig Your Own Hole [Astralwerks], Radiohead- OK Computer [Parlophone]

Words by Daniel Gray



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