Bloc Party - Silent Alarm

Liam McGrady 07/03/2005

Rating: 3/5

So, the dust has settled, all the hurrah and hype has receded and this debut album from the supposed 'saviours of music' has finally landed in the higher echelons of the U.K charts. But, you know that was always going to happen whether it was any good or not, 'cos Bloc Party are everyone's new favourite band aren't they? I'm sure Fearne Cotton and Cat Deeley love 'em anyway. Alright, enough is enough, have they saved music? Errmm… Not exactly. First of all, the production is poor. Paul Epworth may be the producer of the moment, but a record like this, which is bursting with ideas and creativity, needs some depth to it, not to be recorded on what seems to be one setting - tinny. Not that I'm an expert on these things, but there doesn't seem to be much separation between instruments with the bass especially getting lost in the mix. Secondly, it's over long. Songs like 'Price Of Gasoline' and 'Luno' are really just filler. The third thing that gets my goat is the constant reference to some faux Scottish, arty poseurs. Franz Ferdinand, Franz Schmerdinand! If anything, the biggest influence on 'Silent Alarm' seems to be Radiohead from 'OK Computer' onwards. Opener 'Like Eating Glass' with it's scattershot drumming, from the exceptional Matt Tong, and swooping guitars is like something from the 'Kid A' recording sessions that got thrown away for being too tuneful and upbeat, whereas 'Positive Tension' sees the band as “Radiohead Juniors” (naïve and eager to please, rather than moody and sullen); vocalist Kele doing a spot on Thom Yorke and taking in everyday sayings, then spiting them back out at random, “Days replace days/Things replace things/Days replace days/Things replace things”. These are good things in case you're wondering. Enough of the comparisons though, because, at times, 'Silent Alarm' is startlingly original. 'Helicopter' is propelled by twin guitars laced with excitement and youthful vigour and a chorus as catchy as you're likely to hear all year, while 'So Here We Are' shows a more considered yet ambitious side to the band with Kele declaring that he's “Figured it out” over an ethereal and atmospheric 'Post-Rock' backing from the rest of the band. You can almost see him smiling as he shouts “I can see it now” In between these two standout singles, things aren't quite as special. 'Blue Light' is an energy sapper after the snappy call and response guitars and inspiring lyrics of 'Banquet' “And if you feel a little left behind/We will wait for you on the other side” and the duo of 'This Modern Love' and 'The Pioneers' are a bit tame and low key (although they'll probably grow on you). Only 'She's Hearing Voices' shores up the faltering 'middle section' of this record. Insistent drums, metallic guitars and a gurgling bass line, add up to what will surely be a live favourite.Ending with the space-y meandering that is 'Compliments' and it's less than positive message, “And all the while you're torn asunder/Nicotine and bacteria” this is not quite the debut record people were expecting. Fearne Cotton and Cat Deeley won't really like it but will keep quiet; most will listen to it until the songs get so ingrained on the brain that they'll declare it album of the year. As for me, I'll give it 3 stars and reserve judgement on Bloc Party until they come up with a set of consistently brilliant songs. Till next time.