After a two-year hiatus, solo projects and endless speculation about whether lead singer Kele Okereke was leaving or not, Bloc Party are back with their fourth, aptly named, album. The simplicity of the title reflects a new, stripped-back sound; the band have abandoned the flirtation with synths, and turned away from Intimacy’s uncertain sound, returning back to the guitar-driven arrangements of their first two albums.
Four occupies the space between Silent Alarm’s up-tempo, radio-friendly tracks and the more low-key, atmospheric sound of A Weekend In The City. Kele Okereke calls it ‘the best thing that we have ever done’, while the first two singles from the album, ‘Octopus’ and ‘Day Four’ show just two of the different elements to Four: the former, with its new wave arrangement and the latter displaying a more laid-back, subtle sound, that grows on you with repeated listening.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that this sets the tone for the rest of the tracks. The best bits are yet to come; the real joy of this album lies in the return of the rhythm section, which, combined with Matt Tong’s rapid drumming, results in some actual rock music, without an electronic beat in sight. ‘Coliseum’ starts with an acoustic, country twang before veering into some genuinely heavy rock, something which is developed further in final track ‘Not Good People’. ‘Valis (Other Me)’ is the nearest thing you’ll get to another ‘Helicopter’ while ‘Kettling’ has an equally addictive tune, even if lyrically its treatment of the London riots is a little uninspired. Four sees Bloc Party returning to their roots; rock, not electro, guitars, not synths. The result? A sophisticated, nuanced album with all the energy and honesty of their debut.