Bloc Party - A Weekend In The City
George Bass 14/01/2007
Bloc Party are back, and despite their name forever suggesting a baggy-trousered boy band on leave from a nineties timewarp, they've obviously worked hard on the indie-kids-peeking-into-the-junglist-tent direction that made their debut such a pay-off. It's food for thought, however, that A Weekend In The City hasn't been privy to the gargantuan bumpstart that its predecessor was given by the NME greasemonkeys, but luckily the proof is in the pudding: though the production remains as stethoscope-cold as ever, the band have decided to inject a good deal more melody into the proceedings for round two. And, for the most part, it works.
Song For Clay (Disappear Here) repeats the Silent Alarm party-piece of a grand opening - a double-barreled warning shot that claims both Generation Next and the sulkily befringed knapsack brotherhood as its intended target market. Kele Okereke's shoplifter falsetto pays tribute to Bret Easton Ellis' brat pack-ice cold prose, cautioning us against the dangers of meeting Dracula in Dagenham but not giving a frig. What the hell: you're a beautiful boy and that's all that matters. As with many of the tracks here, it's underlined by a basketball drumbeat that marks time until some monster guitar chevrons slice the whole thing up into shards. If that got you all fired up, it's a shame that the ghost of Nathan Barley waters down its successor, Hunting For Witches. Though clearly aspiring to be the across-the-pond reflection of the political Helicopter, it never really quite gets there. Date-rotated sampling and punk licks more angular than a fisherman's protractor try to put bellows to your persecution complex, but it's not exactly strong enough to make it onto Joseph McCarthy's party shuffle. Having a pop at the Daily Maildrew's rampant xenophobia? Telling us to 'kill our middle-class indecision'? Wake up and smell the frappuccino, gents.
That said, there's much to enjoy among the eleven efforts assembled here. When they're not trying to tumble-dry the average gloomy-guts' brainwashing, BP have still got the ability to get you right there when you least expect it. Uniform's backing vocal key-changes bring out the lost boy in Okereke's narrative, and as he sings 'We're finding it hard to break the mould/We're finding it hard to excite myself', you almost feel like he's taking you to one side to whisper his deepest worries. Either that or give your pins a damn good pulling. Could his cry of 'All my guns are rusted' be an inside nod to his choreographed spat with Eddie Argos? Spooky. I Still Remember, on the other hand, is bound to be a big hit come April, when the BBC's 'songs to promote ourselves with' trail needs a new scenester trophy from yestermonth at its helm. Clocking in at four and a half minutes, it's the perfect length for its schoolboy daydream subject matter. Button that up inside an outer space-rock riff and you know that this time the only thing the band are trying to pull are your heartstrings (though if you shut your eyes tight you can maybe imagine Bono belting out something similar from the big-screen of a tsunami benefit extravaganza). Ultimately though, the band are still putting their cross firmly in the miserablist box, and things get sulky-smooth with SXRT, a song that could only ever have gone at the end of the playlist with its epic guitar crashes and lyrics pining for hangdog resolution. After the rough and tumble of earlier pieces, the mood here is uncut glum, like the last person to leave a party, alone. Less of a So Here We Are, more of a Well There You Go.
Overall then, the whole is a pretty strong follow-up to their critically saluted first LP. If patience is not one of your virtues then the song duration might be a bit of a grind; most tracks hover around the five minute mark, and sometimes the lyrical cliché checklist isn't the only thing getting ticked off. But despite a couple of false starts and feisty bottlenecks, it's not too sad at all. Now playing on a MySpace profile near you.