Is the new Bloc Party album Four as imaginative as its title, or is the British band's return album as good as their loyal fan base wanted it to be?
1. "So He Begins to Lie"
4. "Real Talk"
6. "Day Four"
9. "Team A"
11. "The Healing"
12. "We Are Not Good People"
I've spent the last few months listening to the back catalogue of Bloc Party, especially since they announced the dates for their cleverly titled fourth album, "Four." Three albums (excluding remix albums) of material didn't seem like it was going to be enough from one of the stand out and most unique British bands in some time. When many people thought they had hit a wall with their third album "Intimacy;" which, I'll add, was still a solid 7/10 album; the band seemed to agree and called it a day. They went their separate ways, embarking on solo projects and other things, including lead singer Kele Okereke recording what can only be described as a dance album, "The Boxer." Given that Kele was seen as the public voice and driving force, this seemed like the natural direction that "Four" would be taking.
When they debuted the opening single from the album "Octopus" on Twitter a few weeks ago, it was apparent straight away this was a focused and reinvigorated Bloc Party, with the track bubbling with the enthusiasm of their return, not only to the mainstream with new material, but to the form that made "Silent Alarm" one of the most exciting debut albums of the last ten years.
So, thinking I was going to get twelve tracks of classic Bloc Party when I sat down to my review copy of "Four" I was pretty surprised when opening track "So He Begins To Lie" sets a much bigger, louder tone than the upbeat quirkiness of "Octopus." The album was off to a good start, my only criticism of this track would be that if it had just one more chorus, it would have literally blown me away. That honour is instead given to the second track, "3 x 3." A frantic, dark, sweaty affair that ends with a climatic build with Kele and drummer Matt Tong fighting to see who can push the hardest. When it gets to the end of the track, you have to declare it a draw and be thankful for the easier going single "Octopus" and "Real Talk," a real slow down from the early pace that has been set.
Now, by this point, I felt like we were going to be back to business as usual, with catchy riffs supported by Tong's fantastic beats and the unmistakable lyrics of Okereke, but was I ever wrong. Tracks like "Kettling" and "Coliseum" not only sound like they mean business, but they certainly do. "Kettling" stomps along with the intention of British crowd pleasers Hundred Reasons and Hell is for Heroes, while "Coliseum" lulls you into a false sense of security with a Black Keys style blues guitar riff, before becoming one of the heaviest tracks on the whole album.
So far, then we've had probably two tracks that were along the lines I was expecting from them, so it's songs like "V.A.L.I.S," "Team A" and "Truth" that give you the chance to truly take in how different a band they have become with a little break away to pursue their own things. While I didn't enjoy the wait between albums, "Four" was well worth the wait. By the time that Biffy Clyro-esque finisher "We're Not Good People" is done with you, I can promise that you'll be wondering where the old, reliable Bloc Party have gone, but that promise comes with a guarantee that you'll be more excited for what is to come from "Party 2.0" than upset for the fact we're not likely to hear another "Weekend In The City."
The 411: As far as comparisons to earlier, more familiar Bloc Party albums go, this is a much more raw, edgy effort from the band. The thing with it is though will be that more so than anything else they've recorded, this will be more likely to draw in new fans and rather than being a departure from what we're used to, it actually marks an exciting new start for them. One of the best albums I've heard in 2012.