Wednesday, August 8, 2007

[095] Silent Alarm

Album: Silent Alarm
Artist: Bloc Party
Release Date: February 2005
Label: Vice
Producer: Paul Epworth

"Wake up dreamer
It's happening without you
Cut your hair and shave your beard
You squandered your chances
I'll give you a thousand pounds
To show me how you do it
Stop being so laissez-faire
We're all scared of the future"
- from "Plans"

These albums aren't just here to be important. They're here to make love to your brain, and show you a world outside your own. Putting such a recent album like Bloc Party's debut, Silent Alarm, on here might seem like jumping the gun to some people, but I believe this record is good enough to stand up to the beloved classics that it falls in line behind, from The Cure's Disintegration to Radiohead's The Bends. I predict that 20 years from now, we'll still be talking about it. Silent Alarm will one day come to represent the musical tide of 2004 and 2005, when UK guitar bands sprung up, raised not only on Oasis, Blur & Radiohead, but also the jungle and two-step found in their danceclubs. They wanted to dance, but maybe they wanted to do it with a guitar in hand, and probably not have to bother with the drunken chavs in tracksuits. Franz Ferdinand played the suave ladies men grasping at the Pop brass ring. The Futureheads played the Bill Murray clowns with a somber side. Arctic Monkeys played the troublemaking younger brothers who were taking notes to rat you out. Bloc Party played the bookish wallflowers. They danced less but when they did, it was with wild abandon, and they always had much more to say. And they must have been saying the right things, because half the album's songs were released as singles.

Even when their lyrics are dispensed in fragments, nuggets of wisdom far beyond their years fall out. For a young band (average age during recording: 25), their take on relationships is remarkably developed and perceptive. Heartache is covered thoroughly throughout the album, from crystalline opener "Like Eating Glass" to the fragile "So Here We Are". And then there's "This Modern Love", exactly as advertised, a soaring, completely modern love song, more beautiful and honest and romantic than anything on the radio in the last 5 years. I hope that it will live for years at wedding receptions of people with taste. Still, the band doesn't stop themselves at writing about love. Bloc Party is important right now because, more than any other band, they convey the dissatisfaction and worry of being young in our world. "Helicopter" and "Price Of Gas" address world politics from a social standpoint, while "Positive Tension" explores the phenomenon of Pop/American Idol. "She's Hearing Voices" explores mental illness. Meanwhile, "Plans" turns inward, tackling growing up, and "The Pioneers" deals with the stresses stemming from the competition of claiming originality.

And before I make them sound like boring bookworms, Bloc Party also come equipped with the most varied, muscular and colorful musical attack of the nu-wave pack, led into battle by drummer Matt Tong. Tong commits murder on his kit, with a brilliant performance throughout Silent Alarm, playing like an octopus on twenty Red Bulls; his intricate arrangements recall Jimmy Chamberlain's equally memorable performance on the Smashing Pumpkins' Siamese Dream. At the very least, Tong would be remembered forever if he only ever played on "Banquet", one of the most exhilarating singles of the decade, and the whiplash-inducing "Luno"; you can get so distracted by singer Kele Okereke's wails of "Come back to me the way you were, the way you were when we were young..." that you could miss the fact that Tong is making almost all the noise in the whole song. On the entire album, the rest of the band lock together over him, Okereke's slashing rhythm guitar and bassist Gordon Moakes chopping up stuttering rhythms and spraying misty textures as lead guitarist Russell Lissack plays guitar hero, clearly having studied his Radiohead albums like a scientist; he doesn't care to play it fast, instead immersing himself in rainbows of sound. Okereke then plants his vocal flag on the peak of the aural mountains that are these songs, pleading and yelping and moaning the problems of the day, reaching out to the youth to reassure them, "If you feel a little left behind, I will see you on the other side."

01. "Like Eating Glass"
02. "Helicopter"
03. "Positive Tension"
04. "Banquet"
05. "Blue Light"
06. "She's Hearing Voices"
07. "This Modern Love"
08. "The Pioneers"
09. "Price Of Gasoline"
10. "So Here We Are"
11. "Luno"
12. "Plans"
13. "Compliments"
- The US version contains the UK single "Little Thoughts" as a bonus track, between "Price Of Gas" and "So Here We Are".

"Banquet" [video - version 3]

- BONUS: "So Here We Are" [video]
- BONUS: "Helicopter" [video - version 1]
- BONUS: "The Pioneers" [video]

No comments: