Friday, February 09, 2007

Compliments: Bloc Party's A Weekend In The City

An abridged version of this review appears in today's Washington Square News.

Bloc Party's sophomore album A Weekend in the City has the difficult task of following their critically-acclaimed 2004 debut Silent Alarm. Despite this burden, Weekend represents a growth in scope without compromising the band's nervy indie rock delivery, as the band addresses complex subject matter while still maintaining their sonic foundation.

As the album title implies, much of the album's content alludes to urban living and its many discontents. The band’s unabashed romanticism remains evident from the opening line - “I am trying to be heroic in an age of modernity” - but this yearning is tempered with realism, with allusions ranging from xenophobia ("Hunting for Witches") to conformity ("Uniform"). While Silent Alarm dealt with politics obliquely ("Helicopter") or explicitly ("Price of Gasoline"), Weekend strikes a balance between esoteric and universal turmoil by combining highly personal lyrics with a socially conscious outlook.

Stylistically, Bloc Party expand their palette, incorporating samples ranging from bird calls to distorted newscasters, as well as an arsenal of synths, drum machines, and strings. However, the foundation of an energetic rhythm section, coupled with angular guitar work, is preserved effectively. Lead singer Kele Okereke remains at the forefront, with his elastic voice ranging from his familiar art-punk yelp (“The Prayer”) to a more melodic croon (“Uniform”).

The songs are also more anthemic, with virtually every track swelling to a stadium-sized chorus, as the early highlight “Waiting For The 7.18” epitomizes with the massive rendition of the line, “Let’s drive to Brighton on the weekend!” The album remains accessible, despite its often difficult themes, but stylistic homogeneity leads to difficulty in maintaining momentum, as the second half of the album suffers from repetitious structuring. However, "Sunday" is an example of success through simplicity, as the refrain “I’ll love you in the morning/ When you’re still hung over” proves that the band does not always need to be intellectual to be meaningful - or moving.

Buy: Here
Previously: Yusuf's An Other Cup

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