Just Give It Up, Guys of the day: you wait four years for a lackluster album, and then the band take another indefinite hiatus. Bloc Party were one of the best bands of the 2000s, but now it feels as if the London quartet should devote their attention entirely to the band or just call it quits. Is there any point in making fans trudge through an indefinite period of waiting and mediocre side-projects for a half-baked fifth album?
[Original article found at Pitchfork.com]
Yep, it’s that time again. It feel concurrently like 2011’s Mercury Prize ceremony occurred both just yesterday and aeons ago, but it’s been a year since PJ Harvey picked up the prize for Let England Shake, becoming the first artist to win the prize twice. That album was the expected winner from pre-nomination hype to the second before the envelope opened, but this year there doesn’t seem to be much of a clear-cut front runner. We’ll take a look at who could and should get nominated… (as a reminder, only British and Irish albums released between 12th July 2011 and 11th September 2012 qualify for nomination)
The Mercury panel rather like their token selections, resulting in the handful of jazz, classical and fringe nominations every year (hello there Gwilym Simcock). They also love to throw a massive seller or two in the mix as well (hello there Adele’s 21), so you can expect Florence + The Machine's Ceremonials and Ed Sheeran's + on the final list, and with her ubiquitousness at both Olympic ceremonies this summer, it’s highly likely Emeli Sande's name will pop up somewhere. Kate Bush’s Fifty Names For Snow fills the veteran and comeback criteria, so would be a decent bet for nomination if not victory, if there are any gamblers out there. Its connection with its parent film of the same name, as well as its prescience could earn Plan B's iLL Manors a nod; selecting a socially-concious “state of the nation” record would certainly give the Mercury a dollop of relevance.
It’ll certainly be a crime to see Laura Marling left off this year’s shortlist. Her third album A Creature I Don’t Know was one of the highlights of 2011 and Marling’s strongest album to date. The same could be said of both Los Campesinos!’s Hello Sadness and Johnny Foreigner Vs Everything by (unsurprisingly) Johnny Foreigner; both were hailed as the bands’ best albums so far by fans and critics alike (apart from one notorious downmarket magazine) and are certainly deserving of nomination. However it’s unlikely either will appear on the final list, purely because it’s rare to see an album of this breed of indie rock nominated by Mercury. More straightforward indie albums like The Cribs’ In The Belly Of The Brazen Bull, The Maccabees' Given To The Wild, The Vaccines' Come Of Age or The Futureheads' Rant! are far more likely to pop up on the shortlist, though whether they’re deserving is another question (The Cribs and The Maccabees probably don’t, The Vaccines’ album has only been out a week, so it’s hard to tell, The Futureheads might get a nod for the bravery and quirk of releasing an acapella album).
Judged on early hype, Alt-J seem to be most people’s choice for An Awesome Wave, although that may just be through sparsity of a top-tier, clear-cut winner. The Cambridge quartet do seem like standard Mercury fare, like Everything Everything last year, but it’s hard to see them winning the whole shebang. The same goes for a fair few potential nominees released in 2012; Django Django, The Twilight Sad, Islet, Bloc Party, 2:54, Pulled Apart By Horses, Richard Hawley, Hot Chip, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs. Seeing any of those names amongst the nominees would be expected (although choosing Bloc Party for Four would be baffling), but it’s hard to see how they’d win.
When it comes to choosing a winner, only two albums stick out for us. Jessie Ware's debut album Devotion has received near-universal praise from all quarters, finally giving us a British popstar who’s not boring as all hell who also has several bucketloads of talent. To be quite honest, she deserves nominating for "110%" alone. Our other pick would have to be The xx's sublime Coexist. Following up their Mercury-winning self-titled debut was always going to be a challenge, but they seem to have pulled it off with aplomb. Eleven perfect songs that retain the band’s style but advances their sound, Coexist is very likely a contender for album of the year and only just sneaks into the list of possible nominations, being released on the last eligible day. Should Coexist win the prize, the London three-piece will be the first group to win the Mercury twice; an astonishing feat considering this is only their second album, where as Radiohead are still waiting for their first win, after 15 years and six nominations.
So there you have it, a brief guide to what to expect when the official nominations are released next Wednesday. Who do you think deserves to win?
WATCH/// BLOC PARTY - OCTOPUS
Thanks to a Amazon glitch, the first cut from Bloc Party's fourth album Four (geddit?) was available on Friday night, a few days before it was the intended debut date of today. But let’s forget that happened and no one’s heard this before now. "Octopus" is so angular and spiky, it could’ve easily been released around the same time as Silent Alarm; that’s not to say they’ve regressed. Instead Bloc sound more confident in their own abilities and sound than they have before. If anything, Four is going to be an intriguing record.
As the lights dimmed we were greeted not by the recently-reunited Bloc Party but by a superb laser display, rotating hipster triangles and all. The coloured circles on the cover of the band’s comeback album Four were blown up to psychedelic proportions, entrancing the revellers, who almost failed to notice when the four-piece actually took to the stage. With a complete lack of acknowledgment towards the crowd, which surely can only come with knowing that every single person in the room is gagging to hear you, they opened immediately with new track "3 x 3". It’s insanely heavy chorus soon made up for the fact that you really couldn’t connect with the song yet, engaging the eager crowd to surge forward in frenzy. However, the first half of the set was marred with a sense that some of the newer songs were either not up to scratch or the band had misjudged which ones would go down well live. Even the choice to play "Trojan Horse" as their first already-released song, wasn’t greeted especially well, although the simplified, stripped down guitar version of “Waiting for the 7:18” was fantastic.
It took wheeling out first hit "Banquet" for it to feel like Bloc Party really were back with a vengeance; even the new songs just seemed to get better after it. After Kele Okereke claimed that it was his favourite off the new album, "Team A" did indeed show some serious potential. Dressed in a simple buttoned shirt and what can only be described as PE shorts, Kele seemed in complete control of the crowd and band, as they closed the set with a brilliant rendition of their keyboard-heavy standalone single "One More Chance", flowing epically, feedback and all, into the ever-so-popular "Helicopter".
It was the encore, though, that really stands out as the high point of the gig. Playing just one short, new ditty beforehand, the band really got the cups of piss flying with Intimacy opener "Ares". However the highlight of the night certainly must go to "This Modern Love". Perhaps we were all so knackered that the chance to stare in wonderment at the surreal laser displays, while the emotion of the song really overtook you, was just too perfect. Announcing the next would be their last song resulted in actual booing from the crowd. These were quelled immediately as he began a cheeky attempt at Rhianna’s "We Found Love" straight into the fan favourite dance anthem "Flux".
For their second gig in three years, you really couldn’t tell that Bloc Party had been gone that long. As for Four, it will certainly be a dark affair, and yes some of the songs were a wee bit iffy on first listen; "Real Talk" sounding more like Kings of Leon than what we really want to hear. Nonetheless, there was some seriously heavy potential, and we can be certain that harcore fans will lap it up regardless. The band have lost none of that raw energy, drummer Matt Tong holding the whole affair together with unrivalled skill, and the only major difference that seems to have occurred during their hiatus period, is that guitarist Russell is looking a lot less emo-tastic in the hair department than four years ago.
- Headline photo: Kavita41
WATCH/// BLOC PARTY FOURTH ALBUM TRAILER!
The Bloc are back! We’re excited! Exclamation marks! After an all-too-long hiatus, Bloc Party are returning with their fourth album, titled Four, late this summer (August 20th to precise). The trailer for the record showcases its creation as well as snippets of a handful of tracks. Our verdict? For the most part, it sounds quite a lot like Silent Alarm… take that as you wish.
Rejoice! Kele Okereke has confirmed that Bloc Party will finally release their fourth album this year. Speaking to Zane Lowe on Radio 1 yesterday, the singer said that the four piece were working on the follow-up to 2008’s Intimacy in New York. The announcement comes after last year’s controversy with the NME, in which the publication was duped by the band’s (massively tongue-in-cheek) claims to be auditioning new singers, to replace the then-solo Okereke.
Related: With Bloc Party announcing plans for a fourth album, fellow graduates of the indie class of ‘04 The Killers have stated that they will “definitely” release their own fourth LP this year too. In an interview with Zane Lowe (that guy gets all the scoops), frontman Brandon Flowers said “”It’s just whether it’s [released in] the summer time or the winter time”, before adding it was “exciting getting everyone in the room to make some noise.” The frontman also said that he was keen to make a move away from the sound of their previous albums, stating: "We don’t want to make Hot Fuss 2 or Sam’s Town 2, or Day & Age 2. We’ll maybe take all that stuff, the best of all of it and do what we know how to do".
Also related: Yet MORE new album news. Bumper day eh? Miles Kane, formerly of The Rascals, has revealed that a new Last Shadow Puppets is in the works. In an interview with Noise11.com, the solo star said “There will be [another LSP record] when the time is right. We’ll both know together when it’s right. We’re both enjoying our own things, but we’re still working together and when the time is right we’ll go and do that again… Maybe the end of this year, maybe next year.”
With a year-long hiatus concluding in all kinds of split/replacement rumours thanks to NME, the world needs Bloc Party now more than ever.
When Bloc Party released their debut album Silent Alarm in 2005, alternative music was a very different place. Franz Ferdinand and the Kaiser Chiefs were the NME’s biggest BFFs and emotional MOR piano rock was the order of the day. You only have to look at the Mercury Prize nominations for the year before Silent Alarm was released to understand British music at the time. Snow Patrol, Keane and The Zutons were all nominated in what seemed to be a time that ‘rock music’ was becoming anything but.
Silent Alarm changed the game for many reasons. Its stark production screamed of the city and all its dark, twisting alleys. The lyrics were introverted, bleak and represented the mindset of many young city dwellers at the time. Bloc Party were observing modernity with open eyes rather than looking longingly towards the past. In many ways Bloc Party were the war poets to the romantics that had preceded them. More than that, the music itself was new and exciting and the success of Silent Alarm can be rightfully sighted as the reason we have a lot of the bands we have today. The xx, James Blake, Foals, even Two Door Cinema Club, owe much of their commercial success to Bloc Party opening the flood gates for a new wave of alternative music.
However the world needs Bloc Party for more than just their first album. Since Silent Alarm they have continued to challenge what the industry deems suitable. A Weekend in the City was a much more of a political open letter than Silent Alarm. It was a direct reaction to the nation’s situation and again changed the band’s sound just as their rhythmic and electronic sounds had become the industry’s norm. Intimacy did the same, with electronic music pushing the band forward even further and into even more challenging territory.
Talking about how the band changed British music exclusively through their records would however be naïve. The attitude Bloc Party have always had was to challenge what they had created and this is reflected by their challenging of the media. Recent NME baiting aside, frontman Kele Okereke specifically has been known to lead the music press into conclusions that were false. The constant pressure by the band to dispel the celebrity culture that now goes hand in hand with “big” indie music, that in some part contributed to the bleakness of their music makes them one of the most important and relevant bands in Britain. It’s almost as if Bloc Party, indeed any band, are the cool kids in the playground and the music press are their tag-alongs. But rather than patronise them and let them into their life, Bloc Party shut them out and show them up in public. Letting the music do the interviews for them is a tactic a lot of bands could do with smartening up to.
In many ways, British music right now is in the same situation as it was back in 2004, with one exception: electronic music is in vogue. With the aforementioned artists like The xx and James Blake as well as the likes of Ghostpoet,Metronomy and SBTRKT all favourites of both fans and the music press, its prime time for a Bloc Party return. Going back to the Mercury Prize, this year’s nominations, as well as featuring a host of electronic acts, was filled with Elbow, PJ Harvey and other middle class radio-friendly folksy rock. In times of hardship we often look to the past for inspiration but it’s often not the best course of action. What Bloc Party did in 2005, in the height of a Bush presidency and a selection of illegal wars was wake up the people. We can’t stand by and watch the world change and wish for the past because to be frank, it is never going to be the same again. The band had a message that said “look at what we have done, we have to change”; a mission statement that is easily best way to deal with a recession, huge unemployment and a host of ‘austerity measures’. If the NME’s desperation for a story may highlights anything positive it is that people want Bloc Party again. More than that, they need them. It is also the beginning of what should become a musical revolution. The celebrity culture in Britain should not spill over to its music industry.
Bloc Party will without a doubt be remembered as one of the most important bands in post-millennium British music but the legacy must continue; not for the money or the fame but for the people.
WATCH /// KELE - WHAT DID I DO? (FT. LUCY TAYLOR)
The first track from Kele's upcoming solo EP The Hunter debuted on Zane Lowe’s Radio 1 show last night and now there’s a video to go with it. The track itself is very dubstep (not usually a good thing), with Kele taking backseat on the vocals, only popping up on the chorus. It would certainly seem there’s going to be a bit more ‘wob wob wob wub wub’ on The Hunter, which sort of makes me long for the return of Bloc Party even more…
What do you think? Love it? Hate it? Can’t stand Kele and the rest of the Bloc? Let us know.
SONG OF THE DAY /// BLOC PARTY - MERCURY
It’s scary that it’s been over three years since this was released. It still sounds are bonkers and brilliant as it did on first listen. A combination of this sort of risk-taking and the general brilliance of Silent Alarm would make Bloc Party's fourth album a certified classic.