(Written for ELECTRIC BANANA, September 2012)
At the end of ‘Team A’, frontman Kele Okereke can be heard reciting a tale to a studio friend. “He had strange bites on his arm. He squeezed it and it popped and out popped a bunch of baby spiders. It’s a true story.” Thanks for that Kele. The band’s need to include that revolting, irrelevant monologue is just a hint of the ridiculous territory that their latest collection ventures into.
After years of looping rumours of the band splitting, Bloc Party return with their fittingly-titled fourth album.
Central track ‘Coliseum’ alone encapsulates the variety of the album within just two-and-a-half minutes, in a medley of pure cool and pure electric anger. After a segment of acoustic calm, it is interrupted with a sudden, political punk-tinted battle cry from Okereke – “you’ll see that the empire never ended!”. Then comes a descent into nausea-inducing chaos. But a fun, rather satisfying nausea.
Since the electronic twists of 2008’s Intimacy, Bloc Party have returned mostly to their rock origins, but they are by no means sticking to any rules. Aside from maybe “make sure we throw a banjo into ‘Real Talk’, just to wind up journalists as they struggle to describe what they are hearing”. Several tracks don’t bother with verses, choruses and time signatures, creating jumbles usually reserved for prog-rockers, but condensed into sub-four minute chunks. They have a lot of fury to shake off, and they clearly have no time for principals. When this is their frame of mind, they sound fantastic.
These are the eagerly awaited moments that are true throwbacks to their punk-revival origins. However, as with how the angriness of ‘Coliseum’ is reserved for only a snippet of the track, for every Rage Against the Machine-style brutal wrecking ball such as ‘Kettling’, there are other tracks such as the forgettable ‘V.A.L.I.S’ that are relatively dull by comparison.
Four is a mixed bag – an attempt at ‘best of both worlds’, reflecting on their past. It almost works, and while not perfect, it’s worth a spin if you are feeling adventurous.