Bloc Party – Four
Back in the middle of the last decade, Bloc Party were the very definition of uber-cool scenesters. Nowadays, even their most ardent of fans would struggle to summon up the audacity to call them ‘relevant’. Too much time has passed and music, for better or worse, has moved on a lot since those heady days of angular guitar riffs and floppy-fringed attitude.
No matter. They may not be relevant anymore, but with fourth album Four they have made their best album yet. Previous albums have focused too much on being platforms for a couple of shit-hot singles (’Helicopter’, ’Hunting For Witches’ etc…), suffering from a lot of uninspired filler in the process. Four, on the otherhand, is a lot more consistent and makes for a satisfyingly cohesive whole.
Instead of getting lost in the foggy mess of amateur-electro like much of their previous work, Four is knitted together with much heavier, almost metal guitars. The crunching opening riff of ’So He Begins To Lie’ sets that tone nicely, and you get the impression Russell Lissack is keen to make his presence felt immediately. ’3×3’ is the first sign that this is a new, grown-up and comfortable Bloc Party, with Kele and Russell in perfect harmony over a massively overblown but intense crescendo, which is followed up by the more routine lead single ’Octopus’ – which adds a nice bit of melody and control to the opening three song salvo.
The metal influences dominate the album – and it makes you wonder why they’ve been holding them back all the time. This is the first album where Russell’s superlative guitar playing is the main player, creating Deftones-esque riffs (’Kettling’) one minute and QOTSA style rampages (’Coliseum’) the next.
While the rock tempo knits Four together nicely, there’s still enough melodic moments to remind you this is a Bloc Party album. ’Real Talk’ is a great, beguiling change of pace and ’V.A.L.I.S’ just about steals the show with a well paced build-up to a truly disarming climax – it reminds you just how engaging Kele can be when he’s in the mood.
Although it’s definitely their most rewarding album to date, listening to Bloc Party is still a slightly frustrating experience. Some songs on Four don’t quite cut the mustard, especially the faux-blues muddle of ’Coliseum’ and the waste of an ending that is ’We Are Not Good People’. More frustrating than that though is the nagging feeling that Bloc Party are still very much a sum of their parts. On paper, they are probably the best collection of individual musicians since The Smiths – charismatic frontman, truly innovative guitarist and, in Gordon Moakes and Matt Tong, one of the tightest and dependable rhythm sections around. Yet a true masterpiece still eludes them.
For me, though, Four is a great leap in the right direction and will hopefully be the watershed moment which sees Bloc Party emerge as an exciting and important albums band.