Yet another indie-Brit act delivers even less on their third full-length in Bloc Party’s Intimacy. The London band broke out 2005 with Silent Alarm and its singles “She’s Hearing Voices” and “Banquet”. They then followed that up with last year’s mixed bag in A Weekend in the City (QRO review). Only a year-and-a-half later, third record Intimacy was leaked onto the Internet, and now finally is out in hard copy. Unfortunately, instead of returning to what had made them great on Silent Alarm, Bloc Party go further into electronica, and come up short.
The strength of Silent Alarm and the better parts of Weekend were in Bloc Party’s pressing, evocative presence, highlighted by singer/guitarist Kele Okereke’s vocals, but based around guitarist Russell Lissack’s work. Yet, for some reason, Bloc Party has drifted farther away from that on Intimacy, embracing a rock-tronic approach that starts off as bad, and only works its way up to mediocre after a few more spins. That comes off right from the get-go with opener “Ares”, some pedantically aggressive shouts in and out. Probably the most downright unlikable track on the record, it does get less so after multiple listens, but is never ‘good’, just bearable.
However, most of the rest of Intimacy plays more like the following single “Mercury” (there’s a Greek myth/zodiac theme running through many of the song titles on the LP, with no apparent cause or effect): the electronic stop/start piece with some dark-dance elements is mostly unremarkable and mediocre. Other numbers that singularly fail to make a mark include the disco-rock-tronic “Trojan Horse” and “Signs”, though the latter is a little more interesting in its press.
Other tracks get out of the electronic well Bloc Party has put themselves in (whether these pieces are more or less ambitious depends on what Bloc Party was trying to do), but are still relatively unimpressive. “Halo” brings back some of the Bloc’s rock, but fails to be overwhelming (and is just a little bit grinding). A high, restrained beauty grows into some electronica on the following “Biko”, but is not as meaningful as it wants to be. The same can be said for the twinkling change of “Signs” and grand hall atmospherics of the penultimate “Better Than Heaven”.
Before “Heaven”, Intimacy gets outright boring on the restrained beats and vox of “Zepherus” – but after, reaches its (only) highpoint, in finisher “Ion Square”. The higher wash to “Ion” makes it nicer and more touching as it grows well, and is clearly the record’s stand out track. But it’s only a hint of the Intimacy that could have been.
While some alt-British hits started off weak, but have recently gotten stronger (like Coldplay on Viva la Vida or Death and All His Friends – QRO review), others have experienced a junior year slump on the third full-length (see Kaiser Chiefs’ Off With Their Heads – QRO review). Unfortunately, with Intimacy, Bloc Party falls squarely into the latter.