p. Following the scintillating success of Bloc Party’s 2003 album “Silent Alarm,” producing another critically acclaimed record is certainly a tall order. The British indie band’s latest album, “A Weekend In The City,” responds to the challenge with boldness, innovation and artistry.
p. The post-punk revival band has matured greatly since its last album and evidently looked to the likes of Joy Division and Radiohead for inspiration. Their latest record is filled with spiky guitar riffs, ethereal background synthesizer progressions and punk and R&B inspired drum beats — all of which float behind melancholy lyrics of lead singer Kele Okererke’s woes and the feelings of emptiness and insipidness he shares with British society. This record is their darkest, most experimental and most socially conscious work to date.
p. The album takes listeners full circle, emotionally. Beginning with feelings of depression and emptiness, it then moves to anger, frustration, vanity and boredom, and bookends the album with more depression. The record begins with “Song For Clay (Disappear Here),” a dark meditation on feelings of loneliness and lovelessness, shrouded in energetic guitar play and gloomy synthesizer backgrounds. The second track, “Hunting For Witches” shows Okererke’s socially conscious side with frustrated lyrics about terrorist attacks in London, his desire to act against the violent insurgents and his anger towards “middle class” indecision. All this is sung over a catchy punk rock guitar riff with some Thom Yorke-esque bedroom electronica. “Waiting For The 7.18” addresses living with regret: Okererke pines over not taking enough risks in his past for fear of repercussions. He sings, “ If I could do it again I’d make more mistakes / I’d not be so scared of falling.” “The Prayer” beings a cappella, with humming and clapping, and builds into electronic dream rock very suggestive of TV On The Radio. The track “On,” a song about being turned “on” by a woman who makes “his tongue loose” isn’t the best on the album, but is saved by an ethereal string accompaniment.
p. Okereke’s lyrical stylings certainly don’t have the literary flair comparable to that of Yorke, but they are simple, tight and effective. Jacknife Lee’s brilliant production captures the emotion of each song. Influences from his work with U2 certainly comes out in the album, though thankfully it doesn’t reek of pretentious “save the world with music” bullshit. The songs are played in a variety of meters, sometimes changing within the songs, keeping the album interesting. The clever arrangement of the tracks keeps Okereke from emoting along the same lines song after song.
p. The record succeeds in its strange yet engrossing blend of punk rock and “Kid A” electronica. The melancholy mood of the album won’t necessarily leave you hungering to visit the gloomy isle, but it makes you thankful that it produces talented indie rockers like Bloc Party who aren’t afraid to push the envelop. I recommend you go to your local record store and spend a “A Weekend In The City.”