Bloc Party “A Weekend in the City”
Appeared in the Elmhurst Leader
By Ryan Fergus
The term “post-punk” has been tossed around pretty liberally within the rock community in the past five years or so, largely due to the commercial success of New York bands such as Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Interpol. The genre’s mix of aggressive melodies, angular guitar riffs and danceable beats has had the music press touting it as the “next big sound” almost ad nauseam throughout the decade. One of the breakout superstar bands of this movement (think rock music that you can actually dance to) has been Bloc Party, who’s debut, Silent Alarm, arrived from England in 2005 with all the subtlety of an East London rugby match. The record showed a young band that was able to combine the isolation of post-modern indie-rock with the hyperactive rhythms of the U.K. club scene that they had been exposed to growing up. The resulting record made them one of the few groups within the genre that actually managed to live up to their hype, both critically and commercially.
The new record, A Weekend in the City (Vice Records), is the band’s attempt to expand on the “isolated urban living” theme of Silent Alarm, while managing to pull away from their competitors and imitators with a more mature sound (and judging from the production, a much bigger recording budget).
They very nearly pull it off.
Just as The Killers did late last year with Sam’s Town (their own overblown mess of a second record), A Weekend in the City attempts to compensate for a distinct decrease in catchy hooks with production tricks and layer-upon-layer of guitars, back-up vocal harmonies and random electronic bleeps and blips scattered throughout the disc. The songs here lack the more straightforward pop structures of Silent Alarm; yet soak newer tracks such as “The Prayer” in glossy, radio-ready production. So, while Weekend may not boast an obvious hit such as “Banquet” (the breakout single off of Silent Alarm), at the very least the new songs sounds absolutely massive blasting from a home stereo system.
On a more positive note, lead singer Kele Okereke’s lyrics seem to be of a more personal and vulnerable nature this time out. Amidst (perhaps not coincidentally) the pre-release publicity blitz for A Weekend in the City, Okereke vaguely dropped hints in several interviews all-but-confirming his bisexuality; in fact several of the songs on the record (“I Still Remember” and “Kreuzberg”) deal with the homosexual lifestyle. Recurring themes such as conformity and urban isolation still abound on tracks such as “Uniform” (“there was a sense of disappoint as we left the mall; all the young people looked the same”) and the shouted climax of the blistering opener, “Song For Clay (Disappear Here)” (“East London is a vampire; it sucks the joy right out of me”).
Ever the driving force of the group, Matt Tong’s drumming remains a revelation. His ability to mimic electronic drum ‘n’ bass beats, as well provide the jittery yet thundering rhythmic base of A Weekend in the City makes his contribution alone a reason to check out the record.
All in all Bloc Party has a crafted an ambitious second record that barely escapes the dreaded “sophomore slump” that so many young bands fall into. While short on the memorable hooks that made their debut such a success, A Weekend in the City’s rhythms, lyrics and overall mood make it worth checking out.