Bloc Party’s full-length sophomore album ‘A Weekend in the City’ got released four weeks ago and I have to say that I find it disappointing after their 2005 debut with ‘Silent Alarm’. That album, though too much hyped by critics (with NME even making it their album of the year), was much more interesting – even if it often sounded a bit like a more expansive version of Franz Ferdinand. I liked the variations in its musical style. It was a bit eclectic – a good indie rock album with ballads and some poppier songs complementing the harder stuff. It was punky, romantic, arty and rocking. ‘Positive Tension’, ‘Helicopter’, ‘Like Eating Glass’, ‘Banquet’, ‘This Modern Love’ and ‘Blue Light’ were great songs. And: it was a political album! Anti-war, anti blood-for-oil, anti Bush. The album wasn’t absolutely outstanding but I’d give it 4/5.
‘A Weekend in the City’ is pretty much the opposite in every regard. Musically all songs on the album sound pretty much the same: searing and quivering guitars and keyboards dominate and make each song sound like yet another chorus-laden emotional anthem following the previous one. The riffs sound more or less repetitive and the overall sonic landscape is pretty featureless. The lyrics and the mood they represent have changed quite dramatically too compared to ‘Silent Alarm’. Global concerns have been sacrificed on the altar of Okereke’s feelings about living in London in the 21st century.
I have to admit that I don’t know what that is like, but it sounds pretty bleak. While there still is a political undertone in most songs, it’s quite a gloomy album which favours cloaking the political in the mantle of personal experience. Loneliness, disappointment, emptiness of one-night-stands, sentimental regrets and the oppressiveness of homophobia, religious hypocrisy, whipped-up terrorism fears, suicide, alienation – they are the strands weaving the fabric of the songs. Of course, I wouldn’t question the validity of Okereke’s experiences and therefore his right to emotional expression. But even on that level, the lyrics lack emotional depth and power while the overall tenor sounds a bit too self-indulgent to me.
‘Silent Alarm’ was playful, experimental, creative, diverse, energetic, brash and almost bold. ‘A Weekend in the City’ on the other hands sounds over-elaborate, a bit monotonous, excessive, self-pitying, cramped and kind of lifeless. Is this a move towards mass-market mediocrity …?