There is a moment on “Positive Tension,” the third song on Bloc Party’s debut
album, Silent Alarm, when lead singer Kele Okereke asks the question,
“Why’d you have to get so fucking useless?” As he spits out the last three words
of this query, the music goes silent for just an instant, but it’s sufficient to
raise the intensity level of the obscenity tenfold.
If you aren’t a fan of the band after this moment, you may well never be.
It’s said that Bloc Party are equally inspired by Sonic Youth, Joy Division,
Gang of Four, and the Cure, but the combination of those four artists seems
pretty scary and not nearly as melodic as the album the band has actually
produced. Given the Gang of Four reference, it’s terribly unsurprising to
discover that Bloc Party has a connection to Franz Ferdinand; when Okereke sent
a copy of their demo to Franz Ferdinand, it resulted in an invitation to play
the Domino Tenth Anniversary bash in late 2003. The two bands don’t possess
identical sounds by any means – Bloc Party’s sound is far more expansive,
finding them unafraid to place their occasional quirkiness within mainstream pop
trappings – but it’s not hard to imagine someone scrambling to describe Bloc
Party and coming up with the phrase, “Well, they’re kinda like Franz Ferdinand.”
Vocally, however, Okereke bears far more of a resemblance to Damon Albarn than
to Alex Kapranos.
With a name like Bloc Party, it’s no surprise that the group ventures into
political territory with their lyrics; a song called “Price of Gas” is
self-explanatory, but, on “Helicopters,” it’s full-on Bush bashing: “Just like
his Dad, just like his Dad / The same mistakes / Some things will never be
different.” Some might think that sentiments such as these could hurt Bloc
Party’s shot at mainstream success in the States, but, then again, this is the
brave new world where Bright Eyes is allowed to sing “When the President Talks
to God” on “The Tonight Show.”
There have been a lot of remarkable debut albums to emerge from the UK in recent
months - the Delays, Dogs Die In Hot Cars, and Keane, just to name a few - and
Bloc Party unquestionably deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as those
up-and-comers. Along with Kaiser Chiefs’
Alarm is an early favorite in the race to be declared one of the best
releases of 2005.