A Weekend in the City Label: Vice
A Weekend in the City, the sophomore effort by Britain’s Bloc Party, begins on a sparse note, as lead singer Kele Okereke sings gently over a piano and the gentle strumming of a guitar, explaining how he’s “trying to be heroic in an age of modernity…as all around me history sinks.” After bemoaning how nothing ever really touches him, however, the drums begin to pound, the guitars begin to rip, and, suddenly, it’s confirmed that Bloc Party are back with a vengeance.
Or are they?
The sophomore slump is something to which far too many bands fall victim, but, as often as not, the problem isn’t with the quality of the follow-up they’ve produced as it is the height of the expectations of those who thrilled to every minute of their debut. When you put something on a pedestal, there’s a tendency for its successor to be deemed disappointing not because it isn’t good but simply because it isn’t the last album. When Bloc Party debuted in 2005 with Silent Alarm, there was much suggestion that the band was little more Franz Ferdinand, Mk II; after listening to A Weekend in the City, it’s safe to say that, while they aren’t exactly bursting out of the gate with an inarguable creative triumph, they’ve definitely produced a relatively enjoyable second album that finds them on a path of their own.
As noted, “Song for Clay” is a solid opening salvo, a perfect way to indicate that Bloc Party’s back; it’s followed by “Hunting for Witches,” which is three and a half minutes of bliss where post-punk hits the dance floor. “I Still Remember” is a rock anthem of the highest order; it’s less edgy and far more mainstream in its sound than most of the band’s material, and feels like a classic radio single. In fact, so does “Sunday,” come to think of it, with its pulsating drums and epic chorus. “The Prayer,” however, was actually the song selected as the first single for the album, and though it’s an odd pick – it’s a twisted number that’s driven more by beats and electronics than guitars, and it isn’t very catchy – it definitely has a unique sound than you won’t soon forget.
Not every song can be said to be so memorable, however; the middle of the album drags a bit too much. “On” comes and goes without ever building up much of a head of steam, and although “Where Is Home?” finally builds to a nice crescendo before all is said and done, it takes too long to get there. The lyrics are sometimes a bit silly – the lines “If I could do it again, I would climb more trees / I'd pick and I'd eat more wild blackberries” in “Waiting for the 7.18” particularly stand out – but, thankfully, the music is generally enough to save the day, as it indeed does on that very track.
A Weekend in the City isn’t a dramatic leap forward, but nor does it feel like the band’s mired in stagnancy. Check back in with us in about 18 months; the third album is going to be the deciding factor on whether Bloc Party will be around for the long haul.