Fresh, exciting, energetic and full of guitar magic.
Bloc Party’s debut album Silent Alarm launched them into the Indie scene. It seemed they belonged there until their two follow-up albums moved them far deeper into the waters of electronica than critics and fans approved. 2008’s Intimacy failed to impress, resulting in a four year hiatus and a break-up in every respect, apart from the release of an official statement.
Bloc Party get back together with Four and it shows how much they have grown; time apart can be beneficial. Whereas Intimacy rehashed older material, this effort reinvents them as a formidable rock act – and it works.
First track ‘So He Begins To Lie’ starts with sound bites from the recording studio, an announcement of their new live energy. Frontman Kele Okereke builds suspense with the line, “The crowd are waiting”, before furious guitar rifts and heavy drum beats combine for the most dream-like track on the record. Just like that, Bloc Party are back and an edgier tone is set.
‘V.A.L.I.S’ is the best track on offer, an introspective three minutes on taking advice from your future self. Okereke pitches higher to reach emotional peaks, whilst the rhythmic drumbeats provide a steadying backdrop. It’s a curious sound and benefits from multiple listens; sensitivity comes through as you start to notice Lissack strumming gently on guitar.
‘Team A’ and ‘Octopus’ put his guitar skills center stage with the energy of a band just starting out in their parent’s garage. In fact, the whole of Four has the ambition and bravery of a fledgling act – Bloc Party usually take stylistic risks but now it’s for the music, rather than to carve out a niche identity.
But there is a price to pay for breaking-up and getting back together; the ballad-esque ‘Real Talk’ and folksy ‘Coliseum’ don’t cohere with the other tracks and give the impression the band were unsteady or in disagreement about what to offer (for it can’t be said they were rushed). ‘Coliseum’ in particular has try-hard poetic lyrics and the obvious strained effort reduces any enjoyment.
Bonus tracks‘Mean’ and‘Leaf Skeleton’ on the Deluxe Edition don’t let the artistic quality down and although slower contributions, should be enough to entice fans to spare extra change.
Whilst it’s too soon to get excited for album number five, if they keep with the strong rock sound it’ll definitely be an offering to look forward to – as Kelly cordially sings in ‘3×3’, “Yes, yes, yes, yes!”.