Artist: Bloc Party
Album: Weekend in the City
Comments: This album has been, without a doubt, the hardest to write a review for in the one year history of Left of the Dial.
And really, there is no reason why it should be so hard. Bloc Party’s “Weekend in the City” is a good record.
When “Silent Alarm” came out in 2005, it was a breakout success, and not only in independent circles. The album received praise from critics all across the board, and even got some significant press from MTV; the band was featured on their “10 Spot Drop” (and fuck if I know that that is), and many of their songs are used as background music on their various “Whore my Children” type shows. “Silent Alarm” was a declaration of Bloc Party’s unique sound, which blends Cure influence with Wire-style brit punk. On “Weekend in the City” Bloc Party returns with more of their angular polish and rhythmic ferocity that made “Silent Alarm” such a good listen.
For me, Bloc Party tracks have always been broken up into two subgroups; the rockers and the swooners. Bloc Party has never been afraid to rock out, and that is no different on this album. Tracks like “The Prayer” and “Song for Clay (Disappear Here)” are full of fiercely jangled guitars and the driving, steady drum work that has always been the backbone of the band. While these songs are good, they sounds almost a little too polished, a little too planned. They lack the sense of feeling that comes through on tracks like “She’s Hearing Voices” and “Luno”.
While the rockers are good, it’s the softer numbers where Bloc Party have really shined in the past. The crooners are also here on the album, but not without flaws. The best example I can give of this is the paradox of “Waiting for the7.18”. The song starts out sounding almost exactly like “This Modern Love” or “Blue Light” with the delayed guitars and high keyboard notes. The song features a very mature production; I can almost see the band in the studio, hunched over a sound board, playing parts over and over again, tweaking every frequency and layering every note. It shows love, but it’s the kind of love an overprotective parent might give to a pre-mature child. The song is so planned, so polished, so loved, that I has no room to grow, and threatens to be suffocated under the weight of its own design. But then the chorus kicks in, and the band launches into the kind of cathartic hooks and harmonies that make Bloc Party so good. The song is full of longing, hope, love, loss, and pure character. Then it snaps back into the sterile production. It’s a confusing song, but a good one none the less.
My favorite track on this album is the first single “I Still Remember”. It has more of the mature production and painstaking analysis, but still sounds lively.
I guess the reason that I’ve been having so much trouble reviewing this album is that there isn’t anything wrong with it, and yet it is not as good as “Silent Alarm”. I don’t know if that is because the post-punk European wave has crested, or if the production is too stifling, or if the tightness of the band is just too oppressive to allow the songs to take a life of their own. But at the end of the day, this is a good record with good songs. Maybe that should be enough, and I should leave my personal feelings at the door. At the same time, how good can this album be if I never play it again?
Bottom line: This is a good record, but I don't feel good about it.
Rating: 7 out of 10
Key Tracks: Waiting for the 7.18, I Still Remember, The Prayer
Worth the Money: I honestly don’t know.