Posts Tagged ‘bloc party’

Classic Albums #3: Bloc Party – Silent Alarm (Wichita – 2005)

August 17, 2012

The album takes its title from an article in New Scientist magazine about a Japanese Earthquake warning system.

I first encountered Bloc Party slouched on the couch, at about 3am on MTV2’s all night music programme in 2004 or ‘05.

Despite being somewhere between dozing and asleep, something about this hitherto unknown 4-piece grabbed my attention. I distinctly remember the video for ‘Helicopter’, a kind of claustrophobic, fuzzy, London flat, focusing on the band as they stare out at the viewers.

I was inspired in those tentative, following weeks to grab ‘Silent Alarm’. Inspired by purchases of albums by The White Stripes, Kasabian, Editors and The Libertines at a similar time. I forget the running order. Of all of them however I have to say ‘Silent Alarm’ was the most absorbing. Hence why it makes the classic albums corner. I bought the album on hard copy CD; an important distinction as my music development continued, that would seldom become the case and I still own the record to this day. I played it on heavy rotation partly due to lack of options (the aforementioned records as well as a smattering of Oasis, Nirvana and RHCP made up my 14 year olds musical library, not forgetting my earlier flirtation with the Rap genre including records from Marshall Mathers to name but one, I can’t remember the others.)

‘What really appealed to me about Bloc Party was that they were something new, a credible band for my era…’

‘Silent Alarm’ opens with the ecstatic, whirring guitars of ‘Like Eating Glass’  inspired by a remix of The Smiths’ ‘There Is A Light That Never Goes Out.’ Lyrically it catches Bloc Party at their most relatable and untethered. Whilst still incorporating teenage themes of isolation and suicidal imagery. i.e. “We’ve got crosses on our eyes” alludes to the crosses on the eyes of cartoon characters when they die.

The crunching, onomatopoeic ‘Helicopter’ continues the uptempo trajectory of the album, moving on to themes of disillusionment particularly with falseness and pretension, “stop being so American”- ironically a problem I would face with Bloc Party’s future work, but more on that later.

What really appealed to me about Bloc Party was that they were something new, a credible band for my era, I’d been too young for Blur etc, though I did go back and consume their records at a later date, yet Bloc Party seemed to be indelibly part of my generation which was important to a teenager. A similar bond has had me following Arctic Monkeys throughout their career. But very few others.

‘Price Of Gasoline’ resumes Okereke’s anti-American lyrical theme, making veiled attacks on the Bush Administration and their perceived ‘War For Oil’ policy in the Middle East, it’s all very Sixth Form common room. The band was formerly called The Union after all.

‘Silent Alarm’ was also a recipient of the remix treatment seen often amongst a lot of bands nowadays i.e. Battles to name but one. And again like Blur before them. That’s two. Whilst the remix album is not a patch on the original. (That is definitive by the way not a subject for debate.) The fact that they allowed their music to be dissected and tampered with suggested a lot about the exciting, experimental side of Bloc Party. They would carry this on throughout their career for good or ill.

Furthermore Bloc Party introduced me to the English-Turkish DJ Producer Erol Alkan for the first time, I’ve been a fan of his work ever since. His remix of ‘She’s Hearing Voices‘ being the standout track on the remix album. The remix album features a negative cover of the ‘Silent Alarm’ original. A clever little touch in my opinion.

‘Silent Alarm’s cover art is one the finest in 21st century music, depicting what I imagine to be a Scandinavian forest from afar though it could easily be British. The album is completely alien, urban upbeat and unsettling. It captures perfectly the coldness of the imagery yet the album itself is carried along at such a blistering tempo that it never  fully catches up. Until “So Here We Are” the album always has a feel of winter album for me, dark winter nights, shadows, cold wooden floored rooms. But alas I’m rambling now.

The album is best enjoyed between the ages of 14-17 before you discover anything else, Bloc Party would act as precursors for bands such as The Smiths, Blur, Radiohead and The Manic Street Preachers; bands that came before but occupy a space afterwards in my memory.

Bloc Party never lived up to the hype of this classic and would follow up with disappointing records after this. Overly experimental. But such is the nature of a band like this never to stand still. For good or ill.