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Bloc Party - Bloc Party

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Artist: Bloc Party

Album: Bloc Party

Label: Dim Mak

Review date: Oct. 25, 2004

A quartet of twentysomething London boys with guitars doesn't seem like anything to get terribly enthused about – particularly when there’re dozens of post-punk influenced groups clawing at mainstream music’s tablecloth, hungry for scraps. Owning a re-issue of Gang of Four's Entertainment does not guarantee the right to rock, nor does playing through vintage amps. So the question is, how can Bloc Party possibly be relevant?

Unlike some of their contemporaries, Bloc Party rely more on blown-out, high-energy riffs than fashion and poise. Sonically, it’s all quite familiar, but through sheer conviction, these lads avoid novelty even while employing some of the most overused musical devices of the last decade. But before listing precisely what makes Bloc Party work and why, let’s review the ingredients.

Four-on the-floor hi-hat heavy dance beats? Check. Requisite “swarm of mosquitoes” down stroke strumming? Check. Bratty, intellectually distant yet romantically charged vocals? Check. Maxxed-out, dub-style bass throb? You betcha. Superficially, it all seems a little too by-the-book. But the songs themselves showcase an unbridled passion for loud and sexy electricity.

Opening track “Banquet” both infectious and aggressive – a stressed out gutter-pop marvel. Old-fashioned analog delay trails the vocal phrases and the basslines remain both buoyant and nasty, bringing Bloc Party much closer to Clash territory than their peers. A disgustingly brittle guitar solo at the song’s climax sounds as if it was recorded straight into the board – a quick scribble of pent-up emotion that just had to be expressed without worrying about little things like tone.

Granted, there are plenty of similarities to countless other rock acts. But Bloc Party aren’t afraid to make mistakes – they play rough and go for the throat. They retain a punk sensibility that resonates in every note they play; that, more than anything, saves them from descending into lo-fi boy-band territory.

By Casey Rae-Hunter

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