Monday, August 25, 2008

One Month Off

Song: One Month Off
Artist: Bloc Party
Album: Intimacy

When will this become the norm? After semi-sneak attack albums from the Raconteurs, Nine Inch Nails, and Beck we have a brand new surprise album from Bloc Party. No strangers to the loss of control that happens with album leaks, Bloc Party saw their sophomore album “A Weekend in the City” leak to the internet over three months before it was set for retail. So they have wised up and taken a bit of the new Radiohead/Nine Inch Nails model and gone digital. Currently you can buy the album as a digital release for $10, or pay $20 and get the digital download immediately, and the physical CD in the mail when it comes out in October. AND, that CD will contain other songs. (which the band has said they don’t know what will yet.)

My first reaction (besides “oh nice, a new Bloc Party album!”) is to cringe a little at this “you’ll get extra songs,” “we don’t know what yet,” thing as it seems clearly to mark the increased insignificance of the album as a complete work. You can’t just throw random songs together right? Well the truth is… most artists don’t do this, and a “record” is really just a collection of songs. Now, while I am a fan of the album as work of art, my guess is that Bloc Party have a bitter taste in their mouth in regards to this. Given the success and rocket to stardom that “Silent Alarm,” their debut, got them, they probably spent a ton of time crafting “A Weekend in the City” and to have it leak JUST as it was finished is awful… but then as the B-sides from the album began to leak, online fans began to say that some of those songs were better, compiled them together and titled it “Another Weekend in the City.” So I can see where they might just be frustrated with the lack of control.

All that said… how is “Intimacy?” Well I’ve only given it two full listens, but my initial impression is very favorable. I’ll be honest and say that I got lost in the sea of tunes that was “A Weekend” and “Another Weekend” and while specific songs really popped for me, others just went on. Since the release of “Weekend” the band put out a single, “Flux,” that sounded nothing like what the band had done prior. It was practically techno with driving beats and an urgency that wasn’t always there with the band before. They have married the new Bloc Party of “Flux” with the Bloc Party of old (a mix of “Silent Alarm” and “Weekend”) and creating something new and exciting with “Intimacy.”

The album is immediately attention grabbing and holds you throughout. First single “Mercury” is all blips and beats and stuttering voices. And while the lyrics point more inward (lead Kele Okereke apparently just went through a bitter break up) it somehow makes the songwriting more universal. “One Month Off” stopped me in my tracks (okay, I was cleaning the apartment) with its intense beat and hard guitar riff. It sounds a bit new wave, yet very Bloc Party. It’s a bitter track, but filled with more life that I thought “Weekend” had in its entirety. It’s also totally strange.

Which brings me to my next thought… while Bloc Party have always been just another band in the dance-rock movement with (minor) comparisons to Radiohead, this was really the first time where I thought they might have something Radiohead -worthy in them. They play around a lot with sounds on this record, and yet keep things catchy and moving. If they harnessed their ideas together I think they could do something really out there and brilliant. Am I crazy?

But beyond those lofty goals I think Bloc Party has released a fine collection of tunes here for their third record. And having it be a surprise is the cherry on top.



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