Student Life Archives (2001-2008)

Rock around the Bloc with these post-punkers

Margaret Bauer

Bloc Party
Silent Alarm

Vice Records
For fans of: Interpol, Gang of Four, Franz Ferdinand
Grade: B

Final word: An interesting combination of post-punk and Britpop elements that is as suitable for headphones as it is for the dancefloor.
Download these tracks: “Like Eating Glass,” “She’s Hearing Voices,” “Pioneers”

Last year’s “Bloc Party EP” placed the self-same band firmly in the post-punk camp, ripping the “dry distorted guitars” and “jittery rhythm section” pages straight out of Gang of Four’s book and photocopying them for the band to use at rehearsals. Bloc Party were tight and precise, but sounded a bit generic compared to contemporaries the Futureheads and Franz Ferdinand. With the release of “Silent Alarm” last week in Britain, however, the once-reinforced boundaries between overly emotive Britpop and edgy, cynical post-punk have collapsed just a bit. Though Bloc Party still favor the energy and drive of their mother genre, they’ve opted for a more varied, spacious sound on “Silent Alarm” that goes a long way to distinguish it from their earlier, less original work.

What’s first noticeably different from their EP is their willingness to use the studio as a creative instrument. Album opener “Like Eating Glass” begins with a few fluid digital guitar divebombs that sound reminiscent of My Bloody Valentine. A descending organ figure floats into the mix in the soaring chorus section, a subtle touch that actually does quite a bit to lift the song out of the rhythmic chord-bashing that the band seems to gravitate towards. The rest of the album is riddled with similar production tricks that probably wouldn’t be too obvious blasting out of a pair of car speakers but sound great with headphones.

As solid as the production and arrangements are, however, the rhythm section is in a different league. The bass and drums have an explosive energy that will make headphones seem a bit solipsistic. “She’s Hearing Voices” has a dry, over-compressed drum track that is unable to contain itself; it has such an unstoppable force behind it that its function of pushing the song forwards seems almost incidental.

While Bloc Party have mastered the “post-punk” side of the equation, the “Britpop” aspect gives them a bit more trouble. Take “Blue Light,” for example, which has an ambient guitar drone that sounds vaguely interesting at first but gets played out by the end of the song. Singer/guitarist Kele Okereke’s attempt at “breathy” vocals sound a bit forced; his voice is far better suited for the drum-marshal commands that he employs in other songs. And when the xylophones chime in at the end of the song, it falls flat on its face and, thankfully, ends shortly thereafter.

Print This Post Print This Post

No Comments Yet

You can be the first to comment!

Student Life is the independent student newspaper of Washington University in St. Louis. Keep in touch with Washington University by subscribing to an RSS feed of our stories or an RSS feed of our comments. Privacy Policy | Comments Policy | Web Policy