by / August 25th, 2008 /

Bloc Party – Intimacy

 3/5 Rating

(Wichita)

Stunning everyone out of the blocks with the announcement of Intimacy last week, on the surface, one could be forgiven for questioning the band’s motives, giving people a two-day lead time in which to download their new third album. Add that to the fact that the increasingly insular band had until Monday refused to give a public interview this year (Last Monday was the first – in a chatroom with fans and the same interview they announced the release of Intimacy) and that their output since A Weekend in The City had suggested the band were flirting with electronics and you’ve got an interesting prospect for a third record.

We needn’t have worried about their self-imposing segregation. Intimacy suggests that Kele only wanted to speak in song, specifically about a recent break-up which informs the thematic here. He’s more obsessed with the politics of personal relationships than with real-world events. Musically, however there’s an air of experimentalism that was suggested on ‘Flux’ and the recently leaked ‘Mercury’.

Indeed, ‘Mercury‘ actually makes sense in the midst of this album rather than on its jarring, lonesome self. The major problem remains in Kele’s yelping, grating, vocal hook (‘My mercury’s in retrograde‘) which is a great pity as musically, it’s an extremely adventurous and ambitious tune.

Opener ‘Ares’ sounds uncomfortably close to being stolen from Rage Against The Machine’s version of the Stones’ ‘Street Fighting Man’ with its siren guitars and replica drums, though there are similarities to the Chemical Brothers in the drum pattern also. The title is the first reference of three to Greek and Roman mythology – Ares being the Greek God of warfare. ‘War, war, war, war! / I want to declare a war’, Kele declares in a rather befuddled manner.

It’s clear that the pairing of Jacknife Lee and Paul Epworth (the former responsible for A Weekend in The City and the latter for Silent Alarm) has allowed the band to experiment but it’s not always a total success as the uncharted territory leads to several cringeworthy moments including the key change in ‘One Month Off’ and Kele’s frequent caterwauls throughout. ‘Halo’ showcases the same high-velocity, energy as ‘Hunting for Witches’ without that song’s emotional and political core, though the lyrics are worthy of such sentiment.

The band should be applauded for trying out some new techniques as there are some real highlights as a result and thankfully, A Weekend in the City’s drab second half is not repeated here. ‘Zephyrus’ has some lovely heavenly choral background vocals coupled with a stuttering drum machine while ‘Signs’ is the best thing here – an intricate ballad with glockenspiel and subtle electronics, the album’s only truthful and emotional song. Closer ‘Ion Square’ takes its chorus from an E.E Cummings poem, (‘I carry your heart with me’) but it veers too close in tone to numerous Bloc Party songs of times past to truly stand out until the final two and a half minutes lift it above all other comparisons.

There’s a general feel of uneasiness imparted after hearing this album which stems from a lack of cohesive structure. Touches of experimentalism, a smattering of Silent Alarm-era riffage, standard Bloc Party ballads and attempts at a new sound which struggle and eventually fall back on the band’s established sound. It makes for an unsettled listen and is perhaps the result of both Jacknife Lee and Paul Epworth working together in the production booth.

Fans of Bloc Party’s distinctive taut guitar riffs may be slightly disappointed as they are few and far between but there is plenty of other fancy goods on offer amidst the maelstrom to suggest that the current incarnation of Bloc Party have the skills to escape their Silent Alarm past. They’re just not quite there yet.


Buy the album.

Listen: Spotify | Bandcamp | Soundcloud | Youtube

  • I don’t know how many new songs they played at Lollapalooza, but the set was incredibly dull. I will listen to this, and I’m glad to hear it’s better than Weekend, but I don’t have really high hopes, especially after ‘Mercury.’

  • crafty bison

    Right. Corrections.

    1) The name of the song is “Zephyrus”.

    2) There are more than three references to Greek mythology, you just haven’t bothered to delve deeper than song titles to find them.

    3) It’s “e.e. cummings”.

    4) It’s an e.e. cummings poem, not a novel.

  • 1,3,4 – corrected. thanks.

    Care to share the other mythology references? I didn’t spot any after that. Your tone is extremely patronising by the way.

  • Ken

    enjoyed your review. i’ve had about a week to listen to the new album – i think ‘intimacy’ is a fine blend of bloc party’s previous 2 LP’s with a generous dollop of electronica heaped in (a style that compliments Kele’s voice). Initially the ‘mercury’ single did not sit well with me however in the context of the overall album i’ve begun to warm to it. Nevertheless i’m sure the song will divide fans.I believe there is something for everyone on this album.. The die hard ‘silent alarm’ fans will enjoy blazing guitar tracks such as Halo,Trojan Horse & One Month Off while others such as myself will equally enjoy bloc party’s softer, mellower side with songs such as signs similar to some tracks on AWITC (a much maligned album in my opinion).

  • The inability to glean obscure Greek mythology references from song titles is generally viewed as a positive attribute in the western world. Even in Greece, yes sir.

  • DQ

    ever since flux surfaced, bloc party has done nothing but disappoint me in the studio. i guess i’m one of those die hard silent alarm fans, a weekend in the city grew on me and i came to love that album, especially once i saw those songs performed live where the layers were stripped down and there was nothing but raw guitar effects in place of electronic noise. this album has really let me down, i can’t seem to find a flow or a rythym in the album as one musical body, theres good ,in some songs to channel the classic bloc guitar rock then the album shifts to the electronic direction and i can’t help but think “wow this song is nothing but paul epworth, jacknife lee playing with kele okereke’s voice samples how do gordon, russel, and matt feel about this” i almost question the rest of the bands input on about 60% of this record. alot of these electronic songs i could do without, mostly just because of the drum machine in place of matt tong, he’s such a talented drummer i just can’t fathom the absence on much of this record. in fact i feel bloc party as a whole have sold themselves short of their raw musical ability, i know bands want to break out of their formulas and experiment, they’re such musicians i really feel they’ve sold themselves short of what they’re capable of doing with physical intruments and gotten carried away with overproduction

  • Phil

    Absolutely love the material Bloc Party have been bringing out since flux.. mercury came as a breath of fresh air with its manic brass and the album has delivered on a bigger level.(except for ‘zephyrus’- muddled mess of an annoying song) Experiment! i ask the sceptics to listen to radioheads kid a..it’ll open your mind up .

  • John

    A bit of a silly record really. I do like these guys though for it though. It is a very interesting listen and the brass section on Mercury is just brilliant really. One thing I did not like was all the messing with the vocals. Unnessessary and it’s just annoying to listen to the way it pans from left to right randomly. Makes little sense. Pity they are one of the worst live bands I have seen and I have seen them a few times including their Whelans gig a few Januarys back.

  • sarah

    right, well. i well like this album, and the one before that. and the one before that. i reckon we should all just be all nice and open minded and listen to what the guys have to give. theyre amazing live, and if they werent they wouldnt have included several liuve tracks of Weekend in the City on their Itunes music store bonuc track version. great album that i will always like.