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Review: Bloc Party – Four
The problem with debuting your musical career with an album as good as Silent Alarm, is that afterwards, anything short of amazing will instantly be a let-down to fans and critiques. And since this 2005 freshman record, Bloc Party have only seemed to go downwards. But when a band who’s been able to achieve such critical acclaim less than seven years ago comes out with a new album, you’ve got to give them a second (make that fourth…) chance and hope that they’ve finally found a way to meet expectations.
Bloc Party have such a signature sound that, whether you’re an avid listener or just someone who knows a couple of their singles, chances are you could easily recognize a Bloc Party tune just by hearing a couple words sang by lead singer Kele Okereke. And that signature sound is still present on Four (releasing August 21st 2012). The problem is, none of the magic which was present on Silent Alarm will come and grasp you throughout this 12-track album. In fact, it feels as though the British quatuor decided to rely on Okereke’s vocal prowesses and said “screw everything else”. On 3×3, the vocals feel forced and out of place, blended with a cacophonic trying-to-be-bigger-than-it-needs-to-be melody, that will have you press the skip button on your iTunes faster than you can say “What the hell was that?”.
Opening an album with a strong song is something any producer will tell you is mandatory, and Bloc Party are no stranger to this, having put Like Eating Glass at the top of the track-list of their first record. More than half-a-decade later, they seem to have overlooked this golden rule. So He Begins To Lie, which holds the number one spot on Four, is nothing short of a complete failure, aside from perfectly preparing you for what’s to come: uneven rhythms and lyrics that feel orphaned in a sea of bizarre melodies. And it doesn’t get any better after this. Octopus will do as much to you as a fly circling your diner plate on the patio. That is, not being able to get your mind off of it, only because it annoys the fuck out of you. And this effect will be greatly amplified if you listen to this song through their epileptic music video.
After this begins the marathon of trying every sound possible to make sure your album reaches the widest audience possible. First off is Real Talk, which I’m pretty sure I’ve heard on The Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Californication, somewhere in between Scar Tissue and Otherside. You’ll then be introduced to Day Four, which would have been a great song if The Police hadn’t composed Every Breath You Take 30 years ago. Right after this, you’ll hear the result of what it would sound like if Motorhead came out with a Bluegrass single. Coliseum is a nice try from Bloc Party at getting out of their comfort zone, but it just doesn’t sound good at all. And to close this off, you’ll be hit by a very hard feeling of déjà vu when Team A starts, which sounds pretty much exactly like the annoying Octopus. If you get your hands on the album’s Deluxe Version on iTunes, you’ll most likely be confused as to why Mean and Leaf Skeleton are bonus tracks, since they are probably the two best songs on this entire LP.
On So He Begins To Lie, Okereke sings “It grows inside of me, but there’s nothing there”. And this is exactly how it feels to listen to Four. You’ll be filled by a feeling of security and delight when the typical Bloc Party sound commences, and you’ll hope that it keeps going on, only to find out after 43 minutes that this security and delight will have been replaced by emptiness and disappointment. By trying so hard to satisfy everyone, they’ve just come up with an album that has no guideline and no flow. Four is not a disaster; it has some (very few) highlights, like The Healing or Truth. It just fails at being able to give you what you know Bloc Party are capable of.