Once upon a time, Bloc Party burst out with the killer debut Silent Alarm, and joined the ranks of Anglo-alternative bands hitting it big between when The Strokes hit it big and when Arcade Fire hit it big. Yet Bloc Party’s fortunes unfortunately followed the path of The Strokes, with a couldn’t-match-the-hype follow-up (Weekend In the City – QRO review) and eventually a weak record that led to a hiatus that was rumored to be permanent (Intimacy – QRO review) as the singer went solo, with a bad record (Kele Okereke’s The Boxer – QRO review) that proved he needed his band, so back they came. Like The Strokes’ return record Angles (QRO review), Four is certainly not reclamation of the group’s pitch-perfect debut heights, but has its moments (and doesn’t embarrass itself).
The main cause of Bloc Party’s post-Alarm decline was eschewing Russell Lissack’s guitars for electronics, and hard electronics at that – along with Okereke shouting more than singing. The electronics have been dialed back on Four (though are not gone), but the hard sound has moved to the guitars – at least on some tracks. Opener “So He Begins To Lie”, following “3×3”, and later songs “Coliseum”, “Kettling”, and closer “We Are Not Good People” all bring urgency in the form of shredding & grinding from Lissack. While not the nadir that was Intimacy, it’s still not the Bloc Party you’re looking for.
However, on other pieces the group does get back at least some of their status. First single “Octopus” has catchy staccato electric guitars, and just the right attitude from Okereke, while “Team A” repeats that good formula (if not as greatly). More importantly, Bloc Party revive some of the sad loss that made them so effective early on, in songs such as second single “Day Four”, pop-loss “V.A.L.I.S.” (and bonus points to any band referencing Philip K. Dick), and sad & sweet “Truth” & “The Healing”.
When they began, Bloc Party evoked the young confusion of black & white Britain, like a two-tone of a different generation (think Paul Roberts & Mac Armstrong of BBC’s The Fades), but that was rather short-lived, and decline followed. Four doesn’t return to Silent Alarm heights – is more of a mixed bag like A Weekend In the City, by a band finally finding its level.
MP3 Stream: “Octopus“