Bloc Party - Intimacy (Wichita)
Sending out mixed messages is hardly a new tactic in the already fickle world of indie rock. Kele Okoreke and his clan have been issuing out puzzling notices for some time now, topped off with the claim that their Leeds Festival show would be their last for some time – they played Hydro Connect the very next weekend – and that their new album wouldn’t surface until 2009. They promptly dropped Intimacy on us as an online-only treat (with a physical release at the end of October) with only days notice and the results are suitably, well, mixed.
Bloc Party have been the only ones of their alumni – Kaiser Chiefs, The Killers, Futureheads – who even remotely looked like they could shift out of their comfort zone beyond their debut offerings and recent singles ‘Flux’ and ‘Mercury’ suggested some kind of musical sea change for the quartet. In truth, however, these electronica-infused smart bombs were beatific red herrings. Intimacy is not an ‘electronic’ album any more than it is a dub or rap album. It is the sound of a band attempting (with help from the likes of Jacknife Lee, Paul Epworth and Alan Moulder) to redefine their own headspace.
From the Burial-esque cod-dubstep of ‘Zephyrus’ to the Depeche Mode-tinged ‘Better than Heaven’ or the robotronic thud of opener ‘Ares’ (Chemical Brothers should sue for copyright infringment), they have made a decent fist of chopping up their indie rock skeleton into big uneven lines of aural trickery as breakbeats, choirs, vocal loops and samples, and general otherworldly rumblings find their way into the deliberately overloaded mix. At the heart of this are smattering of truly affecting tunes, most of which just manage to survive under the weight of their own restless ambition. Let’s get it in perspective here: they’ve not exactly made Dark Side of the Moon but this album is as ambitious as indie rock gets these days.
Intimacy should be commended for its flirtatious, impatient sprit, as what it lacks in the guile of their debut it makes up for with fevered passion.