Saturday, August 30, 2008

Review: Bloc Party - Intimacy (* * 1/2)

Bloc Party remind me of college freshman, who, when confronted with the endless opportunities of education, want to be everything at once. Changing majors, being swept away toward one ideal and then another, never feeling settled or satisfied until they've explored every conceivable option. With bands, this sort of ambition is admirable, but often frustrating, and Bloc Party's new album, "Intimacy," inspires both feelings.

Anyone hoping that Bloc Party would return to their angular alt-punk roots after "A Weekend In The City" was probably exasperated with the "Flux" single that showed they were diving deeper into experimental electronic territory. Where they previously used production and programming to enhance their original sound, they now completely smother almost every track in it. "Intimacy" works best when the guitar and drums are allowed to shine through the haze and when Bloc Party keep things straightforward, as on "Halo," "Trojan Horse," and "One Month Off." Elsewhere, the explosion of sounds and noise are often at the expense of the song itself. An example is "Ares," where vocal production and a terrible screeching chorus take the track from exciting to obnoxious in a minute.

Another issue here is front man Kele Okereke's songwriting. When things are moving quickly, it's less of a problem, but when the music slows and the lyrics are placed front-and-center, they become distracting. "Was my love not strong enough, to bring you back from the dead? If I could eat your cancer I would, but I can't," Kele moans in "Biko." Ugh. He's never been a great lyricist, but here the poor lyrics are a reflection of the overall inconsistency of the album. There are also several places in "Intimacy" that seem to borrow musically from previous songs, like "Zepherus," which contains a chorus that is a complete rehash (melodically) of "Where Is Home?"

Despite the weaknesses of "Intimacy," it isn't without some exciting moments, like the menacing drum and bass combination on "Better Than Heaven," or the more straightforward rock of the three tracks I listed previously. In some ways, "Intimacy" is stronger album than "A Weekend In The City," which was more uniformly mediocre. Bloc Party prove, albeit inconsistently, that all of their ideas and ambition can still produce some very worthwhile material, but the ten tracks that make up "Intimacy" don't offer enough to keep the album from being a frustrating experience for both old and new listeners.

Favorite Tracks: "Trojan Horse," "Better Than Heaven," "One Month Off"


The Captain said...

I agree with your sentiments. I wish that I could write with your talent on my reviews.