Few bands illicit discussion quite like Bloc Party. Whether it’s debate over the ‘ethics’ of touring without their original rhythm section, or the guitars-vs-keys dispute of their ever-changing sonic palette, they’re a band that’s sure to send any house party into the throes of a heated argument.
Through all that, though, they’ve remained one of British music’s most enduring icons. Frontman Kele Okereke is still one of the country’s most instantly recognisable musical stars, while guitarist Russell Lissack’s kaleidoscopic approach to pedalboard wizardry has influenced a whole generation of six-stringers.
With the band currently succumbing to years of pleas from fans, and touring their iconic-as-you-like debut ‘Silent Alarm’ in full, we thought it was time to charter a course through their turbulent history, and rank each of their wildly different LPs.
5. Four (2012)
‘Four’ was, arguably, Bloc Party’s biggest wobble. Coming after the shock electronica of ‘Intimacy’, which saw a large chunk of their once fervent fanbase drop off, the years-in-the-making ‘Four’ felt unsure. The likes of ‘Octopus’ sounded like a band trying their hardest to recapture their old sound, while dodgy experiments like the Wild West blues of ‘Coliseum’ should really have been left on the cutting room floor. Far from a failure, it was nevertheless the sound of a band who’d lost their way.
4. HYMNS (2016)
Unfairly lumbered with the albatross of that new rhythm section, people treated ‘HYMNS’ like it was Bloc Party 2.0’s proving ground. Lead single ‘The Love Within’ nearly derailed that journey back to superstardom, the Flubber-y electronic bounces no less irritating for coming from Russell Lissack’ pedal board. Elsewhere, though, it’s a record that does a fine job of establishing a new era for Bloc Party – dark, atmospheric, and undoubtedly influenced by Kele’s bristly demeanour following the departure of his bandmates, it proved the modern Bloc Party to be all the better when they stopped trying to repeat past successes.
3. Intimacy (2008)
Released just 18 months after second album ‘A Weekend In The City’, Intimacy’s whiplash introduction of heavily electronic elements baffled much of Bloc Party’s core fanbase, who’d bedded themselves into the group’s guitar-heavy sound. There are gems among the rough – ‘One Month Off’ is a space-age warp ride, cut through with a riff that sounds like Black Sabbath trying to escape The Matrix, and ‘Mercury’ is an indie-disco stomper – but given their relative lack of experience with the electronic sonics they were hurling around the place, it sounds like a group running before they could walk.
2. Silent Alarm (2005)
Bloc Party’s debut, ‘Silent Alarm’ is as iconic as modern indie gets. From the strained guitar opening of ‘Like Eating Glass’ through to the propulsive, punchy rhythm of tracks like ‘Banquet’ and ‘Positive Tension’, it established the group as the forefathers of a new era of British indie that was still in its infancy. Every track – and that cold-as-ice artwork – etched on the minds of millions of young, British music fans, ‘Silent Alarm’ still stands up as one of music’s finest first-works – a group who immediately ruptured the status quo, and have remained one of the most iconic groups ever since. But…
1. A Weekend In the City (2007)
…’Silent Alarm’ isn’t their masterstroke. You see, for all ‘Silent Alarm’’s undeniable iconic status, the true majesty of Bloc Party came with its follow-up. ‘A Weekend In The City’ is a record like few others – audibly composed as a whole, rather than the collection of slapshot singles that ‘Silent Alarm’ often seemed to be, it moved through the biting guitars of ‘Hunting For Witches’ and the thump-clap sonics of ‘The Prayer’, onto twinkling, pensive numbers like ‘Kreuzberg’ and ‘Waiting For The 7:18’, each one soundtracking the indefinable minutiae of young life. It’s a record that ached with both euphoria and distress; a modern masterpiece, it captured youth, sex, drugs, love and inner-city life in a way few others had managed to date, and even fewer have managed since. Over a decade on, it’s every bit as essential as it was on its release.