Written 20th August 2012
Bloc Party - Four
The Band: Kele Okereke (vocals/guitar), Russell Lissack (lead guitar), Gordy Moakes (bass) Matt Tong (drums)
So today see’s the long awaited return of Bloc Party with their 4th album the cunningly named ‘Four’, their first album release since 2008’s last record ‘Intimacy’, making it itself four years since the band last released an album. The band really made a huge impact on the UK Indie music scene with the release of their excellent debut album ‘Silent Alarm’ back in 2005, with early singles ‘Helicopter’, ‘Banquet’ and ‘Two More Years’, really defining a unique “sonic-fused” guitar sound for not just the band but of any band at the time and rightly receiving a healthy amount of radio airplay, quickly help gaining the band a loyal army of followers. This was followed up by 2007’s ‘A Weekend in the City’ another great guitar record but this time the album felt a bit more mellow and chilled out compared to its predecessor however this certainly didn’t stop the band achieving further hits with another batch of great singles ‘The Prayer’, ‘Hunting for Witches’ and ‘Flux’ all being released. They then went on to release 3rd album ‘Intimacy’ and again showed another slight change in direction, with an album which had a much more dance vibe to it and more ‘electro’ influenced tracks than the band had previously done to date but for my money it was still a great record and I have been patiently looking forward to the release of a follow-up album and to paraphrase an early track from the band “So Here We Are” now:
1. So He Begins To Lie
4. Real Talk
6. Day Four
9. Team A
11. The Healing
12. We’re Not Good People
Bonus tracks13. Mean
14. Leaf Skeleton
So as you can see from the track-listing above, we’re going hardcore today and reviewing the deluxe-version of the new album featuring two additional bonus tracks which I’ll also cover as part of this review but in the meantime the album gets us underway with opening track “So He Begins To Lie”. Ok, so throughout this record the album features odd little sound-bites of the band in the studio, as is the case here, before the opening-track picks up with Russell laying down a funky, rocking guitar riff setting the foundations for the track and providing an early indication of the guitar-heavy sound that features much more throughout this record, particularly on the rock-out towards the end of the track. ‘3x3’ follows up next, and features a frantic, menacing guitar riff from the start, with initially softer vocals from Kele, giving the track a dark yet moody sense of urgency about it and this is emphasized further with Kele’s repeated line “No Means No” in the 2nd half of the track. Despite its dark tones, it’s an excellent, fast-paced track and progresses the album nicely. Previous single ‘Octopus’ lightens the mood a little more and features a quirky guitar pedal effect throughout by Russell, giving the track an overall retro and unique feel to it. With gently backing “Woooo Woooo’s” through its chorus, and a catchy melody throughout, it’s quite an Indie-pop track and I can see why the band ultimately used this as a come-back single.
With a slow, repeating guitar strum throughout it ‘Real Talk’ follows next and sees Kele again softly-sung here, as his vocals slowly reveals a protagonists true feelings for a close friend or partner as the track progresses and the track has a very calm, laidback approach to it with gentle percussion, bass and guitar nudging it along gently. After, another brief in-studio sound-bite, we go from the gentle flow of ‘Real Talk’ to the full on guitar-rock of ‘Kettling’. Opening with a heavy, monster of a guitar riff the track then sees a high-pitched guitar riff speeding through its verses with Kele’s vocals over the top of it, before seeing a guitar solo midway through it. I like this track and it’s one for the guitar enthusiasts in particular. Again, entering at a more sedate pace is 6th track ‘Day Four’, with slight jangling guitar through it, it’s a nice track and for me personally captures some of the sound the band were previously creating on ‘A Weekend in the City’. I particularly like the hazy, jangly repeating sounds the band capture and fade-out towards with at the end of the track, providing the listener was an isolated but relaxing backdrop to close with. ‘Coliseum’ makes an appearance next and is another slow-burner, with a distant effect used on Kele’s vocals during its opening. This is before midway through the track when the band suddenly assaults the listener’s ears with a brutal, full-on guitar riff bringing back memories of the style of sound used on ‘Silent Alarm’, particularly the track ‘Luno’ (a personal favourite of mine). Great stuff indeed! ‘V.A.L.I.S.’ slows the tempo of the album again, with low-fi guitars, bass and percussion giving the track a catchy tempo. It’s a pleasant track and again captures the laidback sounds from ‘A Weekend in the City’.
‘Team A’ is up next and for me it’s one of the standout tracks of the album. Featuring, an alarm-sounding electronic riff pulsing through it, layered nicely with Russell’s guitar, the track again has another real sense of urgency about it, defining the eschewed, sonic guitar sounds that Bloc Party are so well known for. I was lucky enough to catch the band play an early comeback gig at Koko before this album’s release and ‘Team A’ was a real standout track for me on the night, played even faster live and to more effect, than as featured here on the album, it’s a great track. After the high off the last track, a comedown is expected, but with the track ‘Truth’, this actually quite a pleasant experience we get here, as it coasts along with an assured confidence about itself. ‘The Healing’ is probably the softest track overall on the album, featuring a mellow guitar riff and an altogether floaty melody to it. It’s a real nice track that I really quite like but it’s almost like the calm before the storm as closing track ‘We’re Not Good People’ is a classic full-on rock track. We’re talking fast, frenetic no-nonsense rock here that even the Foo Fighters would be proud of! But hold on, we’re not quite done here just yet, because as I said earlier, this review is covering the deluxe-version of the album, featuring two bonus tracks and they are certainly worth covering in my opinion.
Up first we have ‘Mean’ and this is classic, old-school Bloc Party in my opinion. Featuring a fast, catchy guitar riff at its heart much like older tracks ‘Helicopter’ or ‘Flux’, it’s therefore a very instant type of track and found myself enjoying it upon first few listens. Secondly we have the track ‘Leaf Skeleton’ and again this is very much in the mould of old-school Bloc Party, with another catchy guitar riff pulsing through it at 100mph, this is just simply another excellent track. I must admit I’m somewhat bemused as to why the band didn’t decide to include these two fantastic bonus tracks on the standard version of the album so I would recommend picking up this version of the album if you can just to hear these two excellent tracks alone.
So in concluding, it’s been a long 4-year wait for the return of Bloc Party but has it been worth the wait? What we have here is an album that has been carefully crafted together by four excellent musicians, whom certainly have high standards in the music and unique sound that they create when they are together. There was a lot of expectation and second-guessing as to what direction the band may take with this fourth album and in my opinion they have returned with a strong guitar influenced album, while still retaining the fast, sonic melodies that are distinctly Bloc Party. Also featuring hard and heavy rock tracks, to the more melodic and chilled out tunes this is arguably the most diverse Bloc Party album to date and I’m finding I’m appreciating the tracks more on this album with each subsequent listen. I was initially considering awarding this album 7/10 but with more listens it’s a definite grower in my opinion so I’m actually going to give this album 2 lots of Four out of 10 (see what I did there!)
Track 3 ‘Octopus’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkeUFRK4i7w
Track 4 ‘Real Talk’ (live from Terminal 5, New York)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhBbVitI0Tk
Track 9 ‘Team A’ (live from Koko, London)http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4tRK1iAIMT8