Saturday, February 03, 2007

Possibly, Maybe: Bloc Party "A Weekend In The City"

There are moments where it becomes more than a little difficult to take this seriously. Because of that fact, there is a distinct possibility that Bloc Party's much anticipated sophomore effort, A Weekend In the City, will be poorly received--and understandably so. The album's maudlin post-rock stylings are subdued but grating; its pacing is deliberate but no less plodding; Its concepts are needlessly dark and, at times, even seem downright disingenuous. However, I am slowly becoming convinced that it is possibly one of the strangest, almost inadvertent, masterworks of the decade. Really, though, my hyperbole fits in quite well with the aura this album exudes. Everything about A Weekend In The City is massive and overblown to the point where it passes being ludicrous and comes back around to being brilliant.

Silent Alarm,
the band's debut, laid a magnificent post-punk foreground for Bloc Party to play on. Like most Gang of Four knock-offs, their wiry guitar riffs and thump-heavy percussions provided a readily available identity, while the album's moody aesthetic and Kele Okereke's sketchy vocals helped push it to the brink of arguable greatness. Here Bloc Party has a decidedly forced maturity under the guise of jaded cynicism and existential angst. The album's pitch-perfect atmospheric accomplishments are somewhat overshadowed by its nihilistic tendencies, but they remain unwarranted, unwelcome, and unwanted. It is in that truism that the album finds its most peculiar stride that keeps it afloat creating a unique and disjointing experience that is far more memorable than maybe they even planned on.

Album opener "A Song For Clay (Disappear Here)" sets the tone with an only mildly misguided dedication to Bret Easton Ellis' protagonist in Less Than Zero. Much like any Ellis novel, it is apathetic, melodramatic and has a predilection towards vampires in the metaphorical sense. It's not deep, but it thinks it is. Because of that, you get a purity of emotion that is simultaneously frustrating and exhilarating. Okereke's musings on East London and the coldness of his own heart and East London in relation to the coldness of his own heart is kind of funny when you hear it at first. However, the more he keeps on with the joke the less funny it becomes. Honesty, after all, is hard to come by with bands immersed in the "scene" as it were, and emotion, by and large, is found to be hilarious. I don't feel what Kele's going through in his songs, but I believe that he's going through it. In that sense, A Weekend In The City is very much a confessional of an album. A personal story for the entire band.

Even lead-off single "The Prayer," with it's Timbo inspired opening and far too heavy production, serves as an interesting take on the band's sudden jump to the mainstream. "Is it so wrong to crave recognition?" An honest to goodness account about feeling bad about not feeling bad. Again, it sounds kind of ridiculous but it always works here. You just have to have the right mindset.

The group has vastly left behind the drummer's rule so prevalent on their debut. Here, drummer Matt Tong is mostly put on the back burner. For where he was once technical, loose, and energetic all at once, he mostly remains in the shadows with violent, sporadic bursts overdubbed with warbly drum machines and sharply timed popgasms. It plays well below his ability, but works within the scope of the album to an alarmingly perfect degree. Because, as forced as it seems at times, this is a new version of Bloc Party. Sure, as the album trails along things get even more introspective--and, let's face it, Okereke's versions of love stories are always a bit off-center--but the more he forces his over the top dramatics on us the more we see the genuine nature behind the album's half frown.

A Weekend In The City takes Silent Alarm's framing, which featured four very talented musicians at its core, and doesn't so much add to it as much as it piles on to it. It sounds like a horrible idea, but the brilliance of A Weekend In The City is the very excess it hurls upon itself. The sonic and atmospheric grandness instilled by its sometimes staggering complacency presents a dichotomy that is not only confusing but truly exciting. Surely destined to be a misunderstood statement, A Weekend In The City is an utterly manic, misguided, depressing, and invigorating masterpiece.


Teresa said...

Okay, I'm uber curious. I cave, I'll listen.

justin said...

I like.