After Bloc Party’s long hiatus after their last album Intimacy, I was rather apprehensive about the new album, Four. After all, Intimacy was, let’s face it, rather dry and a little disappointing, with few memorable tracks; though certainly not as much in comparison with Silent Alarm or their other excellent album, A Weekend in The City. Therefore, I was expecting another decline in quality in Four. I thought I would be right, knowing how the London four-piece have been on bad form what with threats of break-up and some recently rather flat live performances. Instead, there is a lot to be said about this album.
The previous album may have been a little unsatisfactory, especially with some of the deviation into electronic sounds, although I still thought it had one or two cracking tracks. Here, it’s the opposite – overall, it’s a pretty awesome piece. Bloc Party haven’t carried on down the electronic route, but have gone back to what they do best: thundering guitar lines, heavy on the drums, and Kele Okereke’s half-strangled vocals. It works – the moment first track ‘So He Begins To Lie’ burst out the speakers it was a bit of a relief, knowing that we’ve got our old Bloc Party back.
Strafing guitar riffs are a common feature in the album, nowhere else more than ‘Kettling’ with crunching guitars dimly reminiscent of Nirvana. Chart hit ‘Octopus’ is also a fun song; the bitty hooks and wandering vocals from Kele make it a very enjoyable number (though does the ooh-ooh-oohing annoyingly remind anyone else of ‘Blackout’ by Anna Calvi?) The less frenetic songs such as ‘Truth’ also have a lot to offer, giving a lot more scope to Kele’s aching vocals and interesting lyrics, though the contrast between these tracks and the more mad ones can be a bit jarring. I also must say that a personal favourite of mine is ‘V.A.L.I.S’, not because of its dull and generic chorus, but for the smashing lyrics about Greek and philosophy: “he’s into theophany/he’s into phenomenology” – something that all pretentious hipsters can enjoy and appreciate.
This is a good album, but lets not get too carried away; it is not nearly so decent as Bloc Party’s first releases. As a back-to-basics album it’s done well, but at times it can get samey. By the eighth track the intense guitars seem leaden, and you wish that Kele could stop sounding so tortured and shut up for a bit. However, it’s difficult not to appreciate its occasional excellence – for example, the guys have struck gold in ‘Real Talk’, one of the album’s real gems. I doubt that fans will be disappointed with Four, which makes a really interesting addition to the band’s releases. The old Bloc Party formula has been successful, and I’m confident that they are now back on track.
Released on 20th August 2012 by Frenchkiss Records