Bloc Party: Four

Bloc Party 
(Frenchkiss Records)

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Four carries the weight of Silent Alarm (the band’s first album), much like their second and third albums did. And while Weekend in the City (#2) and Intimacy (#3) were mostly forgettable, Four sees the band more deeply developing their sound. With the rumor of Kele Okereke, the lead singer, getting kicked out of the band being apparently just a rumor, the band went all out to produce a cohesive album, with driving guitars, a bass that is present throughout and makes the punk rock songs danceable and sexy, and Okereke’s vocals distinct.

“So He Begins to Lie” opens the album with a chunky guitar riff and vocals that build up to falsetto. The guitar never entirely goes away, and nearly becomes repetitive, but then suddenly is a cacophony of shredding. What the tone is, of this song and what it establishes, is an indie album with full emphasis on the guitar. This happens in straightforward distorted guitar banging, punk rock repetitive riff rhythm, and slowly build up. Every song starts with the almost formulaic guitar-heavy handedness c.f. “So He Begins to Lie,” “3×3,” and “Octopus,” have stronger pop and radio-friendly sensibilities that make Four seem accessible to even non-die hard Bloc Party fans, and any song on the album, really.

Okereke brings his usual self-indulgent style. “Real Talk” shows the frontman pausing after every word to begin the song, and then crooning the bridge. The pauses work with the similarly play-and-pause guitar, but verge on the egotistical. The falsetto though steals the egotism and provides intimacy.

“Kettling” could be a heavy metal song, except that the Bloc Party style is so intrusive. There are 40 seconds of guitar shredding, then Okereke belting, and simpler guitar notes.

The gem of the album is “Coliseum,” which somehow provides a spaghetti Western guitar riff to faded vocals and comes up with a potential classic. It’s the effort of the album to contain what made Silent Alarm successful and build from there. Okereke sings “the empire never ended” and then a frustrated whaling on the guitar drowns out any questions of whether or not the passion and energy still exist in the band.

Four rewards fans for enduring through it all. There’s a lot to be found on the album (“Leaf Skeleton,” a bonus track on the album, even sounds like the beginning of a Wombats song), but it’s definitely loud, in-your-face Bloc Party.

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