Older kids on the Bloc
The original four members of the four-piece London band Bloc Party have named their fourth studio album Four . Yeah, so hipster. But there is nothing pretentious about Bloc Party's latest album.
The indie act's new work sees the musicians spreading their wings and stepping out of their comfort zone. Their break was a good thing.
The band was originally formed by singer Kele Okereke and guitarist Russell Lissack at the Reading Festival in the late 1990s. After multi-instrumentalist Gordon Moakes and drummer Matt Tong joined, Bloc Party was born into a world of ostentatious indie where loving oneself to bits was the norm.
But these guys are a little different, loving themselves a little less and music a little more.
With their 2004 debut Silent Alarm, they made their mark with the single So Here We Are. The album was smooth, elastic and masterfully crafted.
They followed this beautiful album with 2006's A Weekend in the City, on which they took a step away from conventional guitar pop, incorporating electronic processed beats and additional instrumentation.
Intimacy, released in 2008, was a further push from the rock setup and concentrated on Okereke's personal life while exploring unconventional arrangements. It was soon after this release that Okereke went solo.
Now, with Four, they are ostensibly returning to their roots - only to find it would seem that they have travelled so far from their former selves that a full return is impossible.
Bloc Party is all grown up, and Four shows their age. The album is not as loud, exhilarating and provocative as their debut, but it has an introspective depth.
However, it is inconsistent; as if they incoherently threw together 12 tracks on one CD , and called it an album.
It does contain gems like So He Begins to Lie, a return to the Bloc Party of old, and Octopus, in which Lissack unleashes Muse-like shredding. Real Talk, Kettling and V.A.L.I.S. are also indicative of Bloc Party's signature sounds.
But then there are what seems like manufactured anthems: Team A, 3x3 and We Are Not Good People. Further down the track list, Coliseum sounds like The Black Keys on acid. Leaf Skeleton does little to bring it back to a listenable pace and style.
Four is unpredictable and for all its raw energy, it feels unfinished.
Too many songs sound like filler, or lack polish .
I am glad Bloc Party is back, but whether they are back with a bang is another story. I will decide when I see them live this weekend.
- Tonight Bloc Party are playing at the Vodacom Unlimited In the City concert at Mary Fitzgerald Square in Johannesburg (firstname.lastname@example.org). Also playing will be Die Antwoord, Shadowclub, Tumi, Yesterday's Pupil and DJ Yoda
- Tomorrow they move to the Cape where they will headline Rocking the Daisies music festival in Darling (e-mail hello@rockingthedaisies. com or call 021-461-9822)