|Bloc Party — Four [Deluxe Edition] (2012)|
Bloc Party — Four [Deluxe Edition]
Location: London, England
Album release: August 20, 2012
Recorded: Winter 2011/12 in New York City
Record Label: Frenchkiss
01. So He Begins to Lie 3:34
02. 3×3 2:39
03. Octopus 3:06
04. Real Talk 4:14
05. Kettling 3:41
06. Day Four 4:11
07. Coliseum 2:29
08. V.A.L.I.S 3:20
09. Team A 4:37
10. Truth 4:00
11. The Healing 4:19
12. We Are Not Good People 3:20
13. Mean (Bonus Track) [3:27]
14. Leaf Skeleton (Bonus Track) [3:39]
♦ Producer: Alex Newport
♦ Kele Okereke — lead vocals, rhythm guitar
♦ Russell Lissack — lead guitar
♦ Gordon Moakes — bass guitar, backing vocals, synthesiser, glockenspiel, electronic drums, sampler
♦ Matthew Tong — drums, backing vocals, drum machine
Review by Heather Phares
♦ Four years passed between Bloc Party's third, largely electronic album Intimacy and its follow-up, the simply named Four. During that time, Kele Okereke pursued a solo career and bassist Gordon Moakes formed the side project Young Legionnaire -- in other words, the bandmembers had time to live their lives before returning to the fray, and it shows in how revitalized and vital Bloc Party sound on the album. Songs such as the lead single "Octopus" practically jump out of speakers with pent-up energy, recalling the angular thrust of the band's Silent Alarm era with an even poppier twist.
♦ Rewind back to three years ago and things weren’t, on the surface, going swimmingly for team Bloc Party. The group’s third album Intimacy was their worst critically and commercially received album thus far, whilst one-off single ‘One More Chance’ saw front man Kele Okereke fully relegate his band to ‘Kele & The Bloc Parties’ status. In fact it’s pretty much just Kele, as he takes the heavily electronic sound first found on 2007′s ‘Flux’ and explored further on ‘Intimacy’ to fully brash levels, poor Gordon Moakes, Matt Tong and Russell Lissack – fine players all on their respective tools – erased. Thankfully, a break is called; either because Kele wants to get all this euro-trance out of his system in private, or maybe because the others feel they might be serving their time better than just standing around in the sound control room watching the singer do his stuff.
♦ Either way, as Four, the erm. fourth album from the London four-piece, kicks off, the emphasis is clear: this is back to basics, stripped down, Kele has unlocked the closet and given the other three their instruments back. And thank god for that; you can almost sense their delight on the album’s opening salvo of ‘So He Begins To Lie’ and ’3×3′, two tracks full of scything riffs with nary a tacky house piano line in sight. Bloc Party are trying to convey their raw qualities so emphatically, in fact, that you can hear them preparing for the take before launching off, whilst elsewhere snaps of them talking break up tracks. This is Bloc Party at their barest yet, so they seem to want us to believe.
♦ Certainly, it is a pleasure to hear Russell Lissack playing an axe in anger again, whilst Kele’s voice, so overly compressed on their last album, is embedded more within the group’s overall sound, which, for the most, has been beefed up much like the gym-caning front man’s own physique. They show genuine progression too, on ‘Team A’ for instance, channelling the spirit of ‘End Hits’ era Fugazi, spindly hooks firing off one another with a taut, lean sound on a track that also highlights the simple yet sultry groove of Moakes’ bass lines.
♦ What is missing, though, is that sense of vice-like tension that underpinned the group’s best moments – namely most of ‘Silent Alarm’ and about half of ‘A Weekend In The City’. Short of getting back to basics, Bloc Party here are either rocking hard or staring down the barrel of earnest reflection which, as anyone who knows them well can attest, can sometimes be where they shoot themselves in the foot. So it happens again; ‘Real Talk’ is MOR and lifeless, vocals placed on top of the pedestrian guitar pace, stretched out to hide a worrying lack of ideas. ‘The Healing’, meanwhile opens up from the tightly compact space into which the four-piece have wedged all the elements of ‘Four’ thus far but, unfortunately, drifts out and away into nothingness.
♦ Then there’s Kele’s lyrics; not always the finest of wordsmiths, he’s still prone to dropping the odd clunker, notably on ‘Kettling’ where he recalls the London riots of last year like a defiant sixth former, shouting “as the cameras take pictures of us we just laugh”. As a politically-motivated track, it possesses roughly the same depth as Muse’s hastily flung together diatribes against The Man. However, considering where Bloc Party were – careering out of creative control, pushing in different directions and rapidly losing interest in themselves as well as each other – and where they are now – functioning tightly as a unit again, with each member seemingly having an equal share of the creative process – Four is a welcome return, one which doesn’t match the focused quality of their early output, but an album that at least shows they’re starting to remember again what it was that made them so good in the first place.
Biography by Heather Phares
♦ Equally inspired by Sonic Youth, Joy Division, Gang of Four, and the Cure, East London art punkers Bloc Party mix angular sonics with pop structures. Consisting of singer/guitarist Kele Okereke, guitarist Russell Lissack, bassist/singer Gordon Moakes, and drummer Matt Tong, the band was formerly known as Angel Range and Union before settling on Bloc Party. Okereke and Lissack met each other through mutual friends at the Reading Festival, and discovered that they had musical tastes as well as friends in common. Tong and Moakes soon joined their collaboration, and under the name Union, the quartet issued a demo in early 2003; later that year, they switched their name to Bloc Party.
♦ The group's demo and concerts began to attract attention from both the press and their peers; Okereke sent a copy of the demo to Franz Ferdinand, who invited them to play at the Domino tenth anniversary bash in fall 2003. Early the following year, the band released one of the demo's tracks, "She's Hearing Voices," as a single on Trash Aesthetics. A few months later, Banquet/Staying Fat arrived on Moshi Moshi. That spring, Bloc Party signed to Wichita to release their full-length album in the U.K., and to Dim Mak for U.S. distribution. The band spent summer 2004 recording and touring. Late that summer, Bloc Party, which collected the band's first two singles, arrived in the States.
♦ Their debut album, Silent Alarm, appeared early in 2005 and was released by Vice Records in the States to widespread acclaim. Later that year, Silent Alarm Remixed capitalized on the band's burgeoning popularity, as did the 2006 EP Helicopter. A Weekend in the City, Bloc Party's second proper album, followed in 2007. A Weekend in the City leaked onto the Internet months before the album's street date, which inspired Bloc Party to issue their third album, Intimacy, online in late summer 2008; the album was released on compact disc that fall. Late in 2009, Bloc Party went on hiatus and Okereke began working on songs on his own, moving to Berlin and collaborating with producers Hudson Mohawke and XXXchange in New York on a solo album. In 2010, the single Tenderoni arrived, revealing that Okereke's solo work was more dance-oriented than his music with Bloc Party. His full-length debut, The Boxer, arrived in summer 2010. Meanwhile, Moakes formed a side project, Young Legionnaire, with the Automatic's Paul Mullen and La Roux's William Bowerman. The following year, Bloc Party reunited to record their fourth album, and in May 2012, the band announced that their upcoming album Four would be released that August. The album's lead single "Octopus" showed that the band had returned to the angular, guitar-heavy sound of their earlier work.
© Left to right: Okereke, Lissack, Moakes, and Tong
© Birth name: Kelechukwu Rowland Okereke; Born: 13 October 1981 © Birth name: Russell Dean Lissack; Born: 11 March 1981; Origin: Chingford, England © Birth name: Gordon Moakes; Also known as: Gordy; Born: 22 June 1976; Origin: Newport Pagnell, Milton Keynes, England
|Bloc Party — Four [Deluxe Edition] (2012)|