Bloc Party's sixth studio album shows takes an energetic look back to the band's glory days
Like a prized fighter who’s taken a killer cranial blow, Bloc Party have grown sluggish since their mid-2000s heyday, muddling their way into musical cul-de-sacs and half-baked experiments with each new release. It’s perhaps appropriate, then, that their sixth studio album Alpha Games feels akin to former champs revisiting their glory days.
Gone are the vague stabs at pop accessibility that plagued Hymns, the ‘will this do?’ stink of Four, or even the well-received foray into club bangers in Intimacy. In their place is an invite to the wild abandon of 2005, when Silent Alarm’s rapid-fire take on post-rock placed them on the edge of superstardom and the sparky energy of ‘This Modern Love’ was ubiquitous.
Pitching for fan nostalgia can make any band sound like a tribute act to themselves, but the approach yields looser and more fun-loving results than songwriter Kele Okereke has mustered in a decade. A lightning pace pulses through each song, as with relentless opener ‘Day Drinker’ or lead single ‘Traps’, which drenches a grunge-tinged riff with the lusty tale of a casual hook-up. Riskier experiments also prove successful and illustrate the newfound vein of seediness running through Okereke’s lyrics, as in the violent glam strut of ‘The Girls Are Fighting’, the paranoiac outburst of ‘Callum Is A Snake’ or the bitter tinge of album closer ‘The Peace Offering.’
Plenty of tunes fail to make contact: ‘Rough Justice’ continues Okereke’s habit for looping the most annoying noises imaginable, while the album’s quieter moments recall the banalities of landfill indie. But Alpha Games gives Bloc Party the chance to hit the reset button after a handful of lacklustre releases. They may not fit into drainpipe jeans anymore, but there’s life in the old band yet.
Attribution/author: Kevin Fullerton