:: Bloc Party :: Ogden Theatre :: June 12 ::
By Tiffany Childs
On their newest release, A Weekend in the City, Bloc Party has put down their guitars, so to speak, and picked up some new instruments. Relying on computers, keyboards, extra drums and even the sound of birds in empty courtyards, this album finds the Party moving into a natural, more melodic space. The result is a style that branches out in a very promising way from the dancy pop sound fans have come to expect from the London-based band.
Incorporating these new sounds, as well as stringed instruments for the first time, makes A Weekend in the City very different from Bloc Party’s previous album, Silent Alarm, but their fans haven’t seemed to notice. Or maybe the record is good enough that the band’s followers just don’t care. The album debuted in the top 10 in at least 10 countries and at the Number 12 spot here in the U.S.
The Marquee recently had the pleasure of speaking with Gordon Moakes – bassist – about the sound of the new release and how it manages to still be Bloc Party and yet be so distinct.
Initially inspired by bands that make “crazy noise rock” such as Sonic Youth, Moakes expressed that Bloc Party wanted to streamline that influence into more modern sounding music this time around. “We are doing similar things, but we are trying to get away from the post-punk guitar sound,” Moakes said of the new release. “We feel that guitar rock is backwards looking. We want to make music that is free of a lot of our past influences so that we can make music that is right now. The tools we have to make music weren’t available five years ago and we want to take advantage of that.”
Those tools have the band creating music that is, at times, almost robotic. That, according to the band, is right on. Using sampling, glitches and synthesizers integrated with traditional instruments to create a wholly new, unique sound was Bloc Party’s goal all along.
Creating a brand new sound with your second release, especially one as highly anticipated as Bloc Party’s, may be a lofty goal, but it is one that the band seems to have attained with success. Although there are times when the parts of A Weekend in the City don’t appear to fit together, those parts eventually work in a weird, otherworldly way, creating a brilliant follow-up to their first record.
Originating in lead singer Kele Okereke’s interest in “the living noise of a metropolis,” Weekend is comprised of songs that try to express everything you can experience from a Friday night until Sunday morning in an urban setting. The ups, the downs, the mundane, the drugs, the affairs, all the things you brag about to your buddies and the ones you could never mention to another person, are neatly wrapped up in tight beats and emotional lyrics for each listener’s hedonistic enjoyment.
Of course, partying isn’t the total focus of the album – Bloc Party has been known to be “bookish” and without the typical rock band hard partying attitude. The song “Where is Home?” looks at the topics of racism and death, while “Hunting for Witches” speaks to the post 9/11 and 7/7 polarization that has occurred.
While the album’s lyrics are a welcome relief from the angst-y pop played all over American airwaves, the kind of honesty that Bloc Party expresses in their songs can be almost frightening in its intensity. Even as the band manages to border the dance-rock groove that made Bloc Party well loved, they have also embraced a darker, more expansive sound. Weekend sees the band – rounded out by Russell Lissack (guitar) and Matt Tong (drums) – driving the listener to examine life without the complacency we’ve become used to.
Live, the band remains the same, playing with a ferocious energy that Moakes says they “stack upon one another like building blocks” and putting all of their effort into working up the crowd. That effort has paid off. Bloc Party continues to sell out venues around the world. And rightly so. With their sophomore release, it seems that Bloc Party has grown into an exhilarating example of what music should be like.
Spectate if you Gravitate:
• Gang of Four
• Sonic Youth
• Joy Division